KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — A total of 34 schools in Johor Baru were ordered closed today due to the chemical waste dumped into Sungai Kim Kim that has poisoned hundreds of children.
Education Minister Maszlee Malik said teachers also did not have to go to work because of dangerous conditions.
“MOE (Ministry of Education) views this issue seriously because it endangers the lives of students, teachers, and school workers and MOE calls for the offenders who committed this serious offence to be brought to justice immediately,” Maszlee said in a statement today.
Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change And Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said that one of three men arrested for the illegal chemical dump may be charged tomorrow.
“I communicated with AG to tell him the severity of the case and inquired the possibility of multiple charges instead of just EQA,” Yeo said in a statement today, referring to the Environmental Quality Act 1974.
She said the Department of Environment (DOE) has recommended that the suspect be charged under Section 34B of the Environmental Quality Act that punishes the disposal of scheduled waste in Malaysian waters with a fine not exceeding RM500,000, five years’ jail, or both.
“I have instructed DOE HQ during my visit on Sunday to mobilise resources to help DOE Johor to identify suspects. Now we will mobilise even more so to give full support to ‘Jawatankuasa Bencana’,” said the minister.
The DAP lawmaker added that the disaster task force is headed by the Pakatan Harapan Johor state government, which will be responsible for cleaning up the river in Pasir Gudang, school closures, and all coordination work.
Former Johor Mentri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin questioned if Pasir Gudang was safe.
“In fact, we’re still unsure if the state government has conducted a comprehensive evaluation of this pollution and already has a clear action or mitigation plan? Or are they themselves unsure about what to do next?”
Toxic methane and benzene fumes emanating from marine oil, a scheduled waste, that was allegedly dumped by two factories into Sungai Kim Kim, Pasir Gudang, had reportedly sent over 300 people, mostly schoolchildren, to hospital for gas poisoning as they suffered breathing difficulties, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
The owner of a chemical factory in Kulai, and the owner and a worker of a shredded waste factory in Pasir Gudang have reportedly been arrested.
The Johor State Health Department denied that Hospital Sultan Ismail Johor Baru issued a red alert about the gas poisoning.
“JKNJ (Johor State Health Department) also wants to stress that up till now, there has been no deaths caused by the dumping of chemical waste in Johor Baru,” it said in a statement.