Pasir Gudang toxic fumes under control, says Johor MB

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian (seated, centre) said there was no need to evacuate or move residents living along the river in light of the toxic fume situation in Pasir Gudang. — Picture by Ben Tan
Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian (seated, centre) said there was no need to evacuate or move residents living along the river in light of the toxic fume situation in Pasir Gudang. — Picture by Ben Tan

PASIR GUDANG, March 13 — The Johor state government has declared that the toxic fumes situation along Sungai Kim Kim is under control, even though more schools were closed by the Education Ministry today.

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian told reporters that there was no need to evacuate or move residents living along the river, pointing out that the various departments and agencies have contained the situation as of today.

“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 at a media conference after chairing the state disaster management committee meeting at Menara Aqabah here today.

Present were Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad, Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin and senior state department and agency heads.

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 announced a special forensic task force to address the issue of chemical pollution here.

He said the task force, consisting of several related agencies and departments, will be tasked to investigate the root cause of the pollution.

“At present the disaster management committee are monitoring the situation on a 24-hour basis,” said Osman, allaying fears that the situation was critical.

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

“We have also approved an emergency allocation of RM6.4 million for cleaning and relief assistance to the affected victims,” he said.

Osman also called on all parties to stay calm and not to politicise the issue.

Meanwhile, Yeo said the priority now was to clean up Sungai Kim Kim’s affected stretch as soon as possible, followed by constant monitoring.

“Those involved in the cleaning-up operations will also employ the use of in-situ equipment to better tackle the situation according to the surrounding weather conditions.

“At the same time, the ministry also will stress on the usage of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce the risk of hazards for the personnel,” said Yeo.

On the latest numbers, Dzulkefly updated the current situation where a total of 506 people have been treated by medical authorities.

“Of this figure, 166 have been warded and nine are in the intensive care unit (ICU) since last Thursday,” he said.

Two main hospitals, the Sultan Ismail Hoapital (HSI) and Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA), are treating those with symptoms of toxic gas inhalation.

At the same time, the Taman Mawar and Taman Pasir Putih community centres have been turned into temporary treatment areas by the Health Department.