PASIR GUDANG: Students of a school here attended classes as usual but as soon after several of them started vomiting, the teachers knew something was terribly wrong.
As more students complained of feeling unwell and some having difficulties in breathing, alarm bells were triggered.
SK Taman Pasir Putih pupil affairs teacher Mohd Huzaini Jusnin said he alerted the Fire and Rescue Department at 8.30am for an emergency assistance.
Mohd Huzaini said, while entering the school earlier, they could sense a strong smell coming from the river nearby.
“Once the pupils started to feel sick one after another, we knew something had to be done fast.
“But we did not know what was wrong and suspect that it had something to do with the pungent odour,” he said, adding that firemen and several ambulances arrived shortly after.
Mohd Huzaini said they were instructed to shut down the school and evacuate all pupils.
Seven pupils and one canteen operator were rushed to hospital for medical treatment.
Some students in the adjacent school – SM Pasir Putih – also exhibited the same symptoms and were rushed to hospital.
One of the residents living near Sungai Kim Kim also felt unwell due to the strong stench.
Housewife Sahaliza Hasim, 36, complained of having difficulties in breathing and feeling nauseous since she woke up in the morning.
Her sister Salina, 42, said she received a call from her younger sister about her condition.
“At about 11am, she called me again, asking for help to send her to the clinic.
“She fainted few minutes after I arrived at her house,” she said when met at the Sultan Ismail Hospital here.
Salina has yet to be allowed to see her sister and is worried about her condition.
Authorities are now investigating a chemical waste dump along Sungai Kim Kim, which is about 500m away from the two schools.
Johor Fire and Rescue Department chief Datuk Yahaya Madis said the Hazmat team and officials from the Department of Environment had taken water and soil samples near the location.
“We will also carry out preventive measures to stop the chemical from contaminating the river,” he said.
Johor Health, Environment and Agriculture Committee chairman Dr Sahruddin Jamal said that 26 patients were brought to the Sultan Ismail Hospital, six to Pasir Gudang health clinic and three others to Penawar Hospital.
“Three victims, including a student, are receiving breathing aid in ICU.
“The rest of the patients are in stable condition,” he said, adding there were several cases of river pollution in the past.
Dr Sahruddin said the case was being investigated under Section 34B of the Environmental Quality Act, which carries a fine of not more than RM500,000, or up to five years jail, upon conviction.
The Johor Education Department has ordered both schools to close until further notice.