Contaminated Water Kills Seven, Sickens Thousands in Pakistan

At least seven people have died and thousands of others have fallen sick after drinking contaminated water in an industrial city in eastern Pakistan, officials said Tuesday.

An outbreak of gastroenteritis began May 14 in Faisalabad, a city famous for its textile mills. The last two fatalities happened Sunday, said Rana Imran, district health officer for Faisalabad.

CountryWatch: Pakistan

About 4,000 people from a working class neighborhood were treated for diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting, and 200 people are still hospitalized, he said.

"The medical history of the patients has proved that the outbreak was an outcome of taking contaminated water," Imran said.

Authorities have begun replacing old pipes that deliver water to the neighborhood because of suspicions that sewage from nearby lines might have seeped into them, said Azam Suleman, a senior municipal official in Faisalabad, about 75 miles southwest of Lahore.

Clean water is being trucked in.

Water systems in Pakistani cities are often poorly maintained, and their pipes sometimes run near waste water outlets. Deaths from water contamination are common.

Nearly half of Pakistan's population — about 160 million — lack access to proper sanitation, and 40 percent of hospital beds are occupied by victims of waterborne diseases, according to a recent government study.

The government has promised to provide clean drinking water to every Pakistani by the end of 2007.