Over 105 people were admitted to Nishtar Hospital for food poisoning on Saturday.
According to local residents, the food was distributed by a madrassah teacher in Maraal after his sons had recently recovered after a severe accident. “The food was for sadqa but it ended up making everyone sick. Over 60 people are in critical condition,” said a Maraal resident Shahid Alvi.
Eyewitnesses said that the meal was distributed by Qasim and his servants to everyone in the village. “He did not check or taste the rice and 60 people fainted minutes after they ate the food,” Mubashar said.
Rescue workers said that the victims had been shifted to the nearest rural hospital and those in critical condition have been shifted to Nishtar Hospital.
“At least 60 patients are in critical condition but there are over 105 patients being admitted with food poisoning,” said Nishtar Hospital Dr Rehman.
“We have sent samples of the food for testing to the laboratory and are awaiting results,” he added.
Rescue 1122 officials said that they expected the patient count to rise to at least 150. “The food was distributed throughout the village and people went door-to-door with the food,” said Mubashar.
Most of the victims include women and children who have been shifted to nearest rural health centre. Health officials have said that there is a severe deficiency of medicines and ambulances at the hospital.
“Doctors are having a hard time controlling the situation as the patients keep coming in and there is not enough staff or medicine to treat them,” said a nurse at the THQ hospital.
Doctors have said that all patients will be kept in observation for 24 hours to ensure that the poison has been drained from their system. Locals in the area have begun protesting outside Qasim’s house and called the police.
“He wanted to thank God for his sons’ health and has made everyone else sick instead,” said a village resident Amina Bibi.
Police officials have arrested the teacher who has distributed the food as well as his staff.
Qasim said that he did not know anything about the food being poisoned. “All I wanted to do was give food in the name of God. I didn’t prepare it myself and I don’t know how everyone got sick,” he told police officials.
Regional head of Rescue 1122 Dr Waseem told The Express Tribune that rescue workers were trying to take as many people as they could to the hospitals but there weren’t enough ambulances and the entire village seemed to be getting sick.
Doctors from nishtar hospital told tribune that for the time all patients are in observation and will remain for next 24 hours to ensure the stomach cleaning and their physical health.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2011.
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