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Toxic Fumes From Johor River Has Shut Down 13 Schools And Poisoned Over 300 People

Three men have been arrested in connection with the case.

Cover image via Johor Fire and Rescue Department/Malay Mail (Edited by SAYS)

The Johor state government has ordered the temporary closure of 13 schools near Sungai Kim Kim, Pasir Gudang due to toxic air pollution in the area

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 Kim Kim, March 7.

Image via Bernama/Malay Mail

13 schools have been shut down until further notice while clean-up works are being carried out at the affected areas.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik told Malay Mail yesterday, 12 March, that 266 victims at Sultan Ismail Hospital and 42 others at the Sultan Aminah Hospital were being treated as a result of inhaling toxic fumes.

The 13 affected schools
 consist of primary, secondary, and religious schools:
- SK Pasir Putih,
- SK Kota Masai 2,
- SMK Kota Masai 2,
- SK Kota Masai 3,
- SMK Kota Masai,
- SK Kota Masai,
- SK Perigi Acheh,
- Sekolah Agama Kampung Pasir Putih,
- Sekolah Agama Taman Pasir Putih,
- SK Taman Pasir Putih,
- SMK Taman Pasir Putih,
- SK Tanjung Puteri Resort, and
- SMK Tanjung Puteri Resort.

The ordeal began last Thursday, 7 March, when over 1,400 students had to be evacuated after some of them began vomiting

Rescue personnel rendering immediate emergency assistance to the six students who had vomited due to methane gas inhalation in Pasir Gudang in the early morning of 7 March.

Image via Johor Fire and Rescue Department/Malay Mail

"After a check detected methane in the atmosphere, we evacuated all those within a 500m radius of the gas leak," said Zone 1 Fire and Rescue Department deputy chief Lokman Hakim Sulaiman to The Malaysian Insight.

Six students were hospitalised on the same day, one of which had fainted as a result of breathing in methane.

It is believed that the pollution stems from illegal dumping of toxic chemicals into Sungai Kim Kim

Johor Department of Environment (DoE) director Datuk Mohammad Ezzani Mat Salleh said the substance was an oil-based mixture that emits methane and benzene fumes, reported Malay Mail.

"The oily substance is believed to be oil waste commonly used in marine engine compressors and is considered scheduled waste that needs to be disposed of properly under the law," he said.

"Based on our investigations, we estimate that around 20 to 40 tonnes of the oil waste were illegally dumped into parts of the Sungai Kim Kim river."

An investigation into the source of the toxic chemicals found two companies responsible for the illegal dumping of toxic chemicals

One of the factories that was responsible for the illegal dumping of chemical waste into Sungai Kim Kim.

Image via Bernama/Malay Mail

Three male suspects between the ages of 40 to 50, who were arrested to assist with the investigation, have also verbally admitted their involvement in the dumping, reported Malay Mail.

"We are waiting for the green light to submit the papers and also haul the suspects and the two companies to court," said Mohammad Ezzani.

The case was investigated under Section 34B of the Environmental Quality Act 1974, which provides a maximum fine of RM500,000 and imprisonment of not more than five years.

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