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Malaysia shuts 111 schools, but poisoning outbreak 'under control'

16 March 2019

The government will not declare an emergency in Pasir Gudang where hundreds have required medical treatment from inhaling toxic fumes emitted by waste dumped illegally in Sungai Kim Kim last Thursday. It is not yet clear which type of poisonous gas is responsible for intoxication.

Three men were arrested earlier this week over the toxic waste dumping.

The suspects are reported to face five years jail time for breaking environmental protection laws. After denying the death of a student, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad urged citizens to take preventative measures such as using masks. Earlier, more than 1,000 people, mostly school students, were evacuated to safe sites after authorities received an urgent phone call reporting a odd smell that the caller thought to be chemicals around the two schools in Pasir Gudang.

The latest incident occurred on Tuesday, when 260 people were rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties.

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As of yesterday, all 111 schools in the Pasir Gudang area have been closed while 506 people have sought treatment including 166 being hospitalised with nine in the Intensive Care Unit.

On 11 March, a second wave of methane poisoning took place a few hours after the two schools reopened.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said the case was still under the jurisdiction of the state government and that she would be heading to Pasir Gudang today to look into the situation. The official reports that the authorities did not dispose of the chemicals after concluding that they were no longer reactive and claims that the costs of the operations affected the decision.

Malaysia shuts 111 schools, but poisoning outbreak 'under control'