Army deploys chemical experts to assist in Pasir Gudang contamination

Part of the Sungai Kim Kim river in Pasir Gudang that is undergoing a clean-up today. Oil booms have been fitted to stop the oily substance from floating further down river. — Picture courtesy of the Johor Fire and Rescue Department
Part of the Sungai Kim Kim river in Pasir Gudang that is undergoing a clean-up today. Oil booms have been fitted to stop the oily substance from floating further down river. — Picture courtesy of the Johor Fire and Rescue Department

KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 14 — The Malaysian Armed Forces deployed its Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) team yesterday, to assist the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management (Hazmat) Unit in clearing the contamination caused by the illegal chemical dumping in Pasir Gudang, which led to toxic fumes spreading in the area.

In a statement, today, the team from the Royal Army Engineers Regiment (RAJD), consisting of four officers and 21 others from different rankings, is led by Lieutenant Colonel Norhelmi Ismail.

It said the CBRN observation team has reported to the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) management centre at the Taman Pasir Putih multipurpose hall in the district, while its decontaminating team are set to help authorities in the cleaning process.

“The team is equipped with special equipment, including ChemPro, Lightweight Chemical Detector (LCD), Sampling Equipment, CBRN Protective Suit (Complete), Tyvek Suit, Breathing Apparatus (BA), Nitrile Glove and N95 Mask.

“The team is also ready to help with decontaminating personnel and the areas polluted by the toxic waste and helping the Hazardous Materials Management (Hazmat) unit operating on scene,” the statement read.

The military Casualty Evacuation Unit (CEU), which includes one medical officer, three paramedics, and an ambulance, are working together with the decontaminating CBRN team to assist the armed forces involved in the operations.

All officers and personnel are placed at the Territorial Army Regiment (Askar Wataniah) camp in Tebrau, Johor Baru.

As of 8pm yesterday, 947 civilians had sought medical treatment for shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and the state has forced the indefinite closure of all 111 schools in the area.

Putrajaya has already deployed assets and resources, including the police, the military, hazmat teams, fire department, Environment Department, Health Ministry and Education Ministry among other agencies, to oversee the situation.

The Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Ministry said the Disaster Management Committee, which is headed by the Johor state government, is responsible for cleaning up Sungai Kim Kim as soon as possible.

Last Thursday, the state’s Fire and Rescue Department’s Hazmat unit has taken water samples from Sungai Kim Kim, after 31 people fell ill after inhaling the fumes.