Education Ministry orders all 111 Pasir Gudang schools closed over toxic fumes

A notice being put up in front of SMK Pasir Putih to announce the temporary closure of the school due to toxic fumes from chemicals dumped into the nearby Sungai KimKim, March 7, 2019. — Foto Bernama
A notice being put up in front of SMK Pasir Putih to announce the temporary closure of the school due to toxic fumes from chemicals dumped into the nearby Sungai KimKim, March 7, 2019. — Foto Bernama

JOHOR BARU, March 13 — The Education Ministry has shut down all schools in Pasir Gudang district until further notice due to the emission of toxic fumes from waste illegally dumped into Sungai Kim Kim.

Its minister Maszlee Malik said that the decision to close the 111 schools was made after taking the current situation and information from the state disaster management committee into consideration.

“As such, all students, teachers, staff and workers in all affected schools need not turn up until the situation has improved,” he said in a statement tonight.

Maszlee also advised all parties concerned to take precautions and keep abreast with the authorities on the latest developments.

The Education Ministry’s Examination Board has also advised all Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) 2018 candidates in the affected schools to collect their results at the Pasir Gudang district education office from 10am tomorrow.

It said in a statement that the candidates can also get their results by texting mySMS 15888 between 10am tomorrow and 6pm on March 20.

Earlier today, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said a total of 506 victims of toxic fumes had sought medical treatment out of which nine were admitted into the intensive care unit.

He also refuted a viral report that a student had died due to chemical pollution.

The school closures had started last Thursday after students in two schools became ill.

In spite of the school closures and hospital admissions, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian had told a press conference today that the situation along Sungai Kim Kim was under control, adding that there was no need to evacuate or move residents living along the river.

“We expect that the worst is over. In fact, there has not been any death in relation to the incident and the situation is not one that warrants a state of emergency,” said Osman after chairing the state disaster management committee meeting.

Osman said that the fumes mainly affected schools and not residential areas in Pasir Gudang.

He believed that this was due to the open nature of schools that allowed the hazardous fumes to enter the building through the wind, or also the weather where heat can trigger the fumes.

Osman also said clean-up work along the 1.5km stretch of contaminated river will be implemented immediately and is expected to be completed within a week.

The authorities have detained three people who are suspected to have dumped the chemical into the river, and one of them will be charged in court tomorrow.