Deputy minister: 21 students still in hospital over fumes inhalation

Yesterday several students experienced difficulty breathing, vomited and fainted after inhaling the fumes. — Picture courtesy of the Johor Fire and Rescue Department
Yesterday several students experienced difficulty breathing, vomited and fainted after inhaling the fumes. — Picture courtesy of the Johor Fire and Rescue Department

JOHOR BARU, March 8 ― Twenty-one students are still in hospital after having inadvertently inhaled methane fumes from a chemical dumped into a river near their school in Pasir Gudang yesterday, said Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching.

The students are among the 39 people still warded at the Sultan Ismail Hospital after having inhaled the fumes from the chemical discarded in Sungai Kim Kim.

Teo said 12 of the students are from Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Pasir Putih, Pasir Gudang, and the remaining nine, from Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Pasir Putih.

“Two of the 12 students of SMK Pasir Putih, both girls, are in intensive care but their condition is stable,” she told reporters after visiting the students at the hospital. She was accompanied by the hospital’s deputy director (medical II), Dr Surya Masrom.

Teo said that besides the 21 students, a canteen operator is also in the same hospital, in intensive care, and a history teacher is in the ordinary ward.

She said SK Pasir Putih and SMK Pasir Putih will remain closed until tomorrow and the situation is being monitored to determine whether they can reopen on Sunday.

Dr Surya said 39 people are at the hospital and they also include a doctor, a nurse and an ambulance driver. Four of them are in intensive care ― two female students, the canteen operator and the ambulance driver.

Those in the ordinary ward are expected to be discharged today, said Dr Surya.

Meanwhile, Johor Fire and Rescue Department director Datuk Yahaya Madis said the clean-up of Sungai Kim Kim following the chemical dumping was completed at 8.30pm yesterday after a Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) Response Team found the chemical in the river to be at a safe level.

He said the HAZMAT team and a team from the Pasir Gudang Fire and Rescue Station were standing by.

“It will be left to the Johor Department of Environment, Drainage and Irrigation Department and Pasir Gudang Municipal Council to conduct monitoring and cleaning of the river over the next five days,” he said.

 Yesterday, 1,400 students of SMK Pasir Putih and SK Pasir Putih were ordered to leave the schools after several students experienced difficulty breathing, vomited and fainted after inhaling the fumes. ― Bernama