JOHOR BARU, March 7 — Three individuals, including a student, are in critical condition after they are believed to have inhaled fumes from chemicals dumped in Sungai Kim Kim in Pasir Gudang today.
Johor Health, Environment and Agriculture Committee chairman Dr Sahruddin Jamal said the three were warded in the intensive care unit at Sultan Ismail Hospital as they were having breathing complications and needed immediate medical attention.
“Additionally, five others have also been warded in the HSI’s Red Zone for emergency cases,” Dr Sahruddin told Malay Mail when contacted today.
Thirty-one people were given medical care today after they were believed to have inhaled methane from the river.
Twenty-two victims received treatment at HSI, six at the Pasir Gudang health clinic and three at Penawar Hospital.
The victims, aged between seven and 40, were students from SMK Pasir Putih and SK Pasir Putih, while the adults were canteen workers.
Dr Sahruddin said the state government has ordered the temporary closure of the two schools.
“At present, there has not been any evacuation order for those residing near the affected stretches of Sungai Kim Kim.
“However, the state government advises residents that complain of dizziness, nausea or breathing difficulties to seek immediate medical treatment,” said Dr Sahruddin, adding that the state health authorities will be monitoring the situation closely.
Dr Sahruddin also said the Pasir Gudang health clinic, which is located near the affected area, has been ordered to assist the health authorities in identifying patients with symptoms of poisoning.
On the cause of the incident, Dr Sahruddin said based on initial investigations a tanker lorry had illegally dumped chemicals in the river yesterday morning.
He said the state government has immediately ordered a full investigation that will see the Department of Environment (DoE) and the Hazardous Material unit from the Johor Fire and Rescue Department will work together.
“Samples will be taken from the river to identify the chemical waste and also its source as soon as possible,” said Dr Sahruddin, adding that there was no confirmation if the fumes were methane.
Meanwhile, Johor Fire and Rescue Department director Datuk Yahaya Madis said that based on information, an oily liquid was released into the river by the lorry, and this was what was believed to have emitted the methane gas, which affected an area of about 500m radius.
Yahaya said firemen had taken immediate action to contain the chemicals by using an oil boom to stop the oily liquid from floating further down river.