Johor schools closed again over hazardous fumes from river

Two schools in Pasir Gudang were ordered to close again after a suspected release of hazardous fumes from Kim Kim River after they resumed classes today. — Picture courtesy of the Johor Fire and Rescue Department
Two schools in Pasir Gudang were ordered to close again after a suspected release of hazardous fumes from Kim Kim River after they resumed classes today. — Picture courtesy of the Johor Fire and Rescue Department

JOHOR BARU, March 11 — Two schools in Pasir Gudang were ordered to close again after a suspected release of hazardous fumes from Kim Kim River after they resumed classes today.

The order to close the SK Taman Pasir Putih primary school and SMK Taman Pasir Putih secondary school was made at 12pm, after 20 students reported breathing difficulties.

The Johor Fire and Rescue Department’s hazardous material (Hazmat) unit gave the evacuation order and immediate closure following the incident.

Johor Religious Affairs and Education Committee chairman Aminolhuda Hassan said the decision to evacuate and close the two schools was made for the safety of all students, teachers and staff.

“The two schools were earlier cleared to resume classes today and I personally visited the schools earlier this morning.

“However, by noon, there were complaints by about 20 students from the primary school who had breathing difficulties,” he said when contacted by Malay Mail today.

Aminolhuda said the fumes were believed to have returned from the river due to the hot weather in the late morning and afternoon.

He said it was cool during the early morning and it was possible that the heat from the hot weather may have triggered some of the chemical residue to rise later in the day.

“The state government has ordered the two school’s closure until further notice,” said Aminolhuda, adding that he will closely monitor the situation.

Meanwhile, Johor Department of Environment (DoE) director Datuk Mohammad Ezzani Mat Salleh said the department has requested the contractor to thoroughly clean up the affected stretch of the Kim Kim River of any remaining chemical residue.

He confirmed that the air quality reading by the department in the morning was safe, but did not expect the hot weather to trigger the remaining residue in the river.

“The Johor DoE has ordered the contractor to do a total clean-up of the river and we expect the work to be completed in five days’ time,” said Mohammad Ezzani

Earlier this morning, SK Taman Pasir Putih and SMK Taman Pasir Putih that have about 1,600 students had resumed their classes after they were closed since Thursday.

On Thursday, 31 students and adults sought medical treatment after inhaling methane and benzene fumes from the nearby Kim Kim River.

Checks by DoE revealed that it was illegally dumped marine oil waste, about 20 to 40 tonnes, that caused the fumes to affect the victims.