Main image via The Star
The entire nation is praying for Pasir Gudang, Johor, as locals there grapple with the fall-out of a chemical dumping incident.
Earlier this month, over one hundred students and teachers at 2 schools in Pasir Gudang had to be evacuated, due to the overpowering smell of methane gas coming from Sungai Kim Kim.
Over the past week, the problem has escalated.
Here's what we know so far:
1. All 111 schools and a uni in Pasir Gudang have been instructed to close indefinitely
This is the timeline that led to the shutdown.
March 7: Two schools are evacuated, due to a chemical stench. Both schools are ordered to close, and 35 people are hospitalised.
March 9: Number of victims seeking treatment increases to 79
March 11: Three suspects believed to have dumped the chemical waste into the river, are arrested. Students of the previously affected schools complain of breathing difficulties, and state officials order for indefinite closure.
March 12: Number of victims rises to 300; 13 schools ordered to close.
March 13: Number of victims rises to 900; all 111 schools and a uni in Pasir Gudang are ordered to close
2. Response from the authorities
The Dewan Rakyat has approved an emergency motion for the federal govt to declare a state of emergency in Pasir Gudang.
Politicians from both sides of the divide will debate the special motion at 4.30pm today (March 14) for an hour.
Meanwhile, the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister says at least 8 chemicals have been identified based on the water samples that were taken from Sungai Kim Kim.
Several other chemicals have yet to be confirmed, while river clean-up work is in progress.
The Johor state government approved an emergency allocation of RM6.4mil for clean-up work and relief effort.
The Sultan of Johor also donated RM1mil to the disaster, and has instructed the state MB to form a committee to handle the chemical pollution.
3. Concerns over air quality
As at 1pm today (March 14), the air pollutant reading in Pasir Gudang is at normal levels.
But state officials say the air quality can change, according to the weather, wind direction and rain.
The Department of Environment will install gas detection monitors in Pasir Gudang to check on air quality.
This is to detect toxic pollutants and other chemical compounds at different altitudes.
Meanwhile, face masks are sold out at many places.
4. Prosecution against the culprit postponed
Prosecutors have delayed the charges against the suspect responsible for the chemical pollution - an illegal tyre recycling factory boss.
This is because they want to add more info in the investigation papers.
The suspect will be charged under the Environmental Quality Act 1974, for illegally dumping scheduled waste.
If convicted, he can be jailed for up to 5 years and fined RM 500,000.
Authorities say there's a possibility of bringing multiple charges against the suspect due to the serious nature of the offence and inadequacy of the penalty.
So, if you're around the affected area, please make sure you wear a mask (not just any mask, make sure its N95)
Also, STOP sharing false or unverified info of the incident, coz this isn't helping the situation.
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