Toxic Waste Shuts 111 Schools in Malaysia, Fumes Sicken Hundreds
Malaysian investigators work to clean up from a chemical waste dump and find the responsible parties.
Fumes from chemical waste dumped in a river in the southern Malaysian state of Johor forced the closure of 111 schools on Thursday and sent hundreds of people to the hospital, with at least eight in intensive care. Worsening the situation is weather which continues to blow the fumes across a widespread area.
According to Malay Mail, the crisis began when the chemicals were dumped on March 6 in an industrialized area of Johor and worsened as the chemicals flowed downstream and wind fanned fumes.
The first victims of the dumping were reported on March 7, but more victims were then recorded on March 11, March and on March 13 when the government shut down the 111 schools in the town of Pasir Gudang. So far over 500 people have gotten sick from the fumes.
Reuters reported that the Malaysian government sent at 12 squadrons from its chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear unit to help clean up the toxic waste.
Malaysia has so far refused to declare a national emergency and said the situation was “under control,” however, some politicians are calling for the emergency declaration.
“Pontian would like the government to declare a state of emergency because of the toxic waste dumping in Sungai Kim Kim because it takes more than a week to clean the river. We should also give the victims some form of compensation,” said Umno’s Pontian MP Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan.
“If we give compensation to victims of natural disasters, we must give the victims of this toxic waste disaster some compensation. If we can’t give them compensation then we must allow them to take legal action against the ones behind this,” he added.
The Malaysian government has said it would investigate 250 chemical plants as it attempts to determine responsibility for the dumping.
Two factory owners and one worker were detained by the Johor Department of Environment two days ago on suspicion they were involved with the dumping but charges against them have been put on hold, according to MalayMail.