JOHOR BARU • All kindergartens, schools and institutions of higher learning in the Taman Mawar area of Johor's Pasir Gudang have been ordered to close until Thursday as more students suffer from breathing difficulties and vomiting.
The decision came after students from another school in Pasir Gudang were reported to be experiencing breathing difficulties yesterday, even as the Johor government says that it is still unsure what caused the Malaysian state's latest air pollution incident, The Star reported.
Bernama news agency said that students from Taman Nusa Damai Secondary School were the latest to be affected by the incident.
The school is about 5km from Sekolah Agama Taman Mawar, whose students were among those who suffered breathing difficulties and vomiting last Thursday.
According to Bernama, at least six ambulances were seen in the Taman Nusa Damai school compound yesterday, although it was unclear how many people were affected.
It said that some of the victims were taken to Pasir Gudang Municipal Council Indoor Stadium for early treatment. The stadium has been serving as a monitoring operations centre for the cases reported last week.
The new school week in the state started yesterday. Johor schools observe the weekend on Fridays and Saturdays.
There are now a total of 77 patients seeking treatment after being exposed to toxic fumes, according to The Star.
Cases of vomiting and breathing difficulties were first reported at two schools in Taman Mawar - Sekolah Agama Taman Mawar and Pasir Gudang 4 school - last Thursday afternoon, The Star reported.
Fifteen people suffered breathing difficulties, including at least 13 students, the news website said.
Earlier, the Johor government said it was still not known what had caused the incident, and an investigation was under way.
"We do not know why the students suddenly felt nauseous and fainted," Johor Menteri Besar Sahruddin Jamal was quoted as saying by The Star yesterday.
"However, we hope to get a clearer picture over what really happened when we obtain the blood test results by Monday."
State Health, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Mohd Khuzzan Abu Bakar said at a press conference held at the Pasir Gudang Indoor Stadium yesterday: "The Environment Department, together with other agencies, are investigating the cause of the air pollution.
Total number of patients seeking treatment after being exposed to toxic fumes at the weekend.
Number of schools forced to close in March in the Pasir Gudang district after chemical waste was illegally dumped into Sungai Kim Kim, resulting in more than 4,000 people falling ill after inhaling toxic fumes.
"We have narrowed down the source and will make an announcement soon."
He had said earlier that air quality readings recorded by the authorities over the previous two days were normal, but the air quality will be monitored until today.
In Kuala Lumpur, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said two more students from Sekolah Agama Taman Mawar had been admitted to hospital after suffering breathing difficulties but were in stable condition. This brings the total number of cases to date from the school to 18.
Dr Sahruddin also said yesterday that the state government would be discussing with the Federal Town and Country Planning Department to set up a committee to study the location of residential and industrial areas.
They are now located near one another.
Residents of Taman Mawar yesterday said the latest case evoked bad memories of the Sungai Kim Kim incident earlier this year.
In March, chemical waste was illegally dumped into Sungai Kim Kim, resulting in more than 4,000 people falling ill after inhaling toxic fumes.
The incident forced the closure of 111 schools in Pasir Gudang district and prompted the authorities to launch an intensive clean-up of the river and inspections of other sites where chemicals had been illegally stored and dumped.
Four employees of a used-tyre processing company - including its three directors - have been accused of disposing oil waste and sludge into Sungai Kim Kim on March 7.
Malaysia said last month that stiffer penalties of up to RM5 million (S$1.6 million) in fines will be imposed for environmental offences under a new Act that is being drafted.
Food stall owner Ruhaini Ya, 48, said she was dismayed to find out that just three months after the contamination in Sungai Kim Kim, the residents were again going through a similar experience.
"It's affecting our health. I hope the authorities will act against the culprits," she told The Star.
Mr Khuzzan said last Friday, however, that the latest incident had nothing to do with Sungai Kim Kim because one of the schools affected is located some 6km away.