Generator fumes leave 19 dead

19 Nov
Malak ShaherPublished:19-11-2011

Yemen Times

Having received decreasing amounts of electricity since April, Yemenis have found an alternative power supply: generators.

However, this alternative is far from healthy and may cause respiratory diseases, if not asphyxiation. This is especially true when people use gas to operate their generators.

This week, a family of 19 died in Sana’a from suffocation after putting a generator  inside their house to protect it from the rain.

Gas leaked out while they were sleeping, giving them no chance to escape. The family members’ bodies remained there until neighbors reported to the police that a smell was coming from the house.

Ignorant of its ill effects, some do not know that gas is dangerous if inhaled and that it can cause numbness, fainting and, eventually, death by asphyxiation.

Many in Sana’a try to save money by filling generators with gas instead of oil. They get more hours of electricity, and for a cheaper price.

Zulikha Ahmad, a housewife in Sana’a, said that she prefers to use gas because it is cheaper than oil. She keeps the generator in the backyard, but said that the smell is suffocating.

“I get more hours of power. I do not like the smell, but it is less expensive to operate generators with gas than with oil,” said Ahmad. She added that most of the people she knows have generators.

According to business owners, thousands of people like Ahmad have been buying generators in Sana’a since April.

Ez Al-Deen Badri, an accountant at the Sodani Center, which sells electronics and spare parts, said that the shop has been selling only generators for more than a month.

“The situation became more serious, with more people buying generators day by day. It has become everyone’s dream – even the poor ones,” said Badri. He added that the last time they sold a refrigerator was a month ago.

Badri said that after filling it with the contents of one gas cylinder, a generator can operate for a week if used four to five hours a day.

According to Badri, more than 15 generators are sold each day. He added that at least 20 people ask about generator prices daily and 80 percent of the store’s sales now come from selling them.

Asma Abdulla, a schoolteacher in Sana’a, said that for some people, generators “disturb the air, even if they themselves don’t own one.”

Abdulla herself does not own a generator, but says that her neighbors’ generators “create such a bad smell and so much noise” that she cannot sleep.

“I miss the days when I used to open the window to breathe fresh air,” said Abdulla, adding that she can do nothing to make her neighbors stop using the generators at night.

“The smell and the noise make me just close the window in anger.”

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