Sharjah: Five men have been arrested after a young girl died and several others were hospitalised from suspected pesticide poisoning in a Sharjah tower, officials said.
Farah Ibrahim, 11, from Iraq, died on Monday due to heart failure following exposure to an illegal toxic pesticide, investigators said.
Sources told Gulf News her brother and mother are in serious condition in hospital.
Another tenant, a Filipina, was hospitalised on Tuesday evening, the sources added. An Emirati family in the same building, Al Ittihad Tower, was earlier on Monday treated for suspected poisoning.
Officials said an Indian expat on the 12th floor had used an illegal toxic pesticide called phostoxin. It is also know by other trade names – and called “bomb” in the black market.
The watchman and four other suspects reportedly involved in supplying and selling the pesticide have now been arrested, officials said on Wednesday.
They added that Farah and her family had fallen ill after the pesticide reached their 11th-floor apartment in the form of gas – phostoxin eventually turns into gas after reacting to air and humidity.
The poisonous gas reached the family through ventilation pipes and an exhaust hole located in the kitchen of the family, officials said.
Medical reports state that evidence gathered from the patients and the apartments on Friday morning reveal that the cause of exposure was the toxin.
The Indian family declined to comment on the incident when reached by Gulf News on Wednesday. A man who answered the front door of the 12th floor apartment said they had no comment as the matter was under investigation.
“This is a tragic incident. We are also tangled up in complications, it would not be appropriate to talk about this at the moment,” he said.
A tenant on the same floor said his children had also suffered nausea, upset stomach, and skin and eye irritation on Friday.
He added: “It’s scary what can happen to you because of what someone else does near you. I feel sorry for the lose of life and the patients – as well as the tenant who used the pesticide. He is a nice fellow. I’m sure he didn’t release the pesticide would have this effect.”
A statement from Sharjah Media Centre said: “The police has been told by the tenant and the watchman of the building that the building management was contacted and the Indian tenant was advised to deal with it himself, despite the fact that each residential unit’s management holds an arrangement with a pesticide company to protect tenants from its health risks.”
Officials and licensed pest control firms have warned against using cheap and illegal alternatives that have cost a number of lives in the UAE.
“The inexperienced tenant treated his apartment with the pesticides, placing two tablets in each room in order to get rid of the insects. After opening and inspecting the apartment a large number of tablets – 18-20 – of phosphide aluminium located in different areas … were found.”
A Sharjah Police official, Lieutenant Ahmad Al Hamadi, said in the statement: “The use of two to three tablets is enough to eradicate all insects and affect a grain amount of more than five tonnes.”
“Any pesticide company is controlled by the Municipality with strict regulations. Toxic pesticides which are not legalised cannot be used by those companies. Our investigations currently focus on the ventilation system within the building to possibly evacuate units as a precautionary measure.”
Handwritten notices by building management were posted on floors 11 through 13 asking tenants to keep windows open for at least four hours.
Sharjah Police said residents facing such situations should immediately open doors and expose themselves to open areas rich of oxygen and to call the paramedics and police immediately on 999.
Preparations for an awareness campaign in collaboration with Sharjah Media Centre are underway, with an aim to expose sales of illegal and lethal toxins.