June 30, 2005

Sewage in water kills six in Pakistan, 500 sick

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Six people died in the Pakistani cityof Lahore and about 500 were sick after drinking water that wascontaminated by sewage believed to have seeped into the city'ssupply lines, an official said on Thursday.

The sewage is thought to have contaminated the water supplyin a poor, densely populated part of Lahore, the country'ssecond city and capital of Punjab province.

"We think it was because of cross-contamination betweensewage and water," the province's health minister, Tahir AliJaved, told Reuters.

"We can confirm six people died because of gastroenteritis... We've seen about 500 patients up to yesterday."

Eight emergency clinics had been set up in the neighborhoodand 200 beds at a nearby hospital set aside for the sick, hesaid.

Water was being trucked into the neighborhood in tankersand authorities had ordered the replacement of old water pipes,he said.

A majority of Pakistan's 150 million people do not haveaccess to safe drinking water and this week President PervezMusharraf announced a target of potable water for all withinthree years.

More water purification plants should be built as part ofthe drive, he was reported as saying.

About a dozen people died in Hyderabad city in the south ofthe country last year after drinking contaminated water.