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3/14/2019 7:49:29 PM

Pasir Gudang methane poisoning: Over 1,900 people affected

More than 1,900 people have been affected by the toxic waste pollution in Pasir Gudang, said Malaysia’s National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) on Thursday (Mar 14).


Methane fumes from Sungai Kim Kim caused students and teachers from nearby schools to experience shortness of breath and vomiting. (Photo: Bernama)

It added that 390 people are still hospitalised. Ten are in the intensive care unit.

The number of people being treated for symptoms of methane poisoning has increased steadily since the pollution was first reported on Mar 7, when students and teachers from two schools suffered shortness of breath, dizziness and vomiting.

The education ministry on Wednesday ordered all 111 schools in Pasir Gudang to shut, amid the growing environmental issue.

Authorities believe the poisoning was caused by toxic waste that had been illegally dumped into a river.

The issue was debated in parliament on Thursday, where Pasir Gudang Member of Parliament Hassan Abdul Karim urged the federal government to declare in emergency in the town in Johor Bahru.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the government is evaluating the seriousness of the pollution before deciding on whether to declare a state of emergency.

"We will have a meeting first for us to consider the options because we have other measures (besides the declaration of emergency) that can address the problem," she told reporters at the parliament lobby.

"We will have to get to the bottom of this thing, we will consider the measures needed for the time being, as well as mid- and long-term action."

Dr Wan Azizah said that the case is still under the jurisdiction of the state government, but stressed that authorities will do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of the people around Pasir Gudang, especially children.


Emergency personnel wearing protective suits prepare materials for the clean up of Sungai Kim Kim river in Pasir Gudang, southern Malaysia on Mar 14, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Muhammad Syukri)

​In its statement on Thursday, the National Disaster Management Agency said authorities have so far managed to remove about 2.4 tonnes of toxic waste mixed with soil. 

Samples of the toxic waste have been sent to the Johor Department of Chemistry for further analysis.

The federal and state governments will both manage the cost of the cleaning works, said the agency, adding that compassionate aid will be given to all affected victims and families based on criteria that will be decided by the authorities.

The agency also said that the initial cleaning works on Mar 8 had inadvertently worsened the chemical reaction at the affected location, causing a spike in the number of those affected.

Putrajaya has sent the police, the military, hazmat teams and the fire department among other agencies to help deal with the problem in Pasir Gudang, said Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin in parliament on Thursday.

"The federal government has already deployed assets and resources as if the situation has already been declared an emergency situation," he was quoted as saying by the Malay Mail./. 

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