Pulau Burung landfill fire: 10 schools within 10km of blaze ordered closed for three days

Toxic smoke pours out of landfill at Pulau Burung in Nibong Tebal. —ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Ten schools located within a 10km radius of the Pulau Burung landfill on the mainland of Penang were ordered to close from Wednesday (Jan 19) to Friday (Jan 21) following a fire at the landfill that broke out last Wednesday (Jan 12).

Southern district education chief Mohamad Dziauddin Mat Saad said the decision was made after a district disaster management meeting on Monday (Jan 17).

"The meeting concluded that the Air Quality Index of the areas around the schools located within the 10km radius was at Acute Exposure Guidelines (AEGL) Level 3, meaning the air quality could affect the health and threaten the lives of residents," he said in a statement on Tuesday (Jan 18).

He said the decision was forwarded to state education director Abdul Rashid Abdul Samad, who then issued the order for the 10 schools to be closed from Jan 19 to 21.

The schools affected by the closure are SJK (T) Ladang Byram, SJK (C) Pai Teik, SMK Seri Nibong, SJK (T) Nibong Tebal, SK Seri Sentosa, SK Keledang Jaya, SJK (T) Ladang Changkat, SMK Methodist, SK Methodist and SK Nibong Tebal.

Mohamad Dziauddin said the affected schools have also been instructed to inform parents, canteen operators, bus operators and others about the closure of the schools.

"We also instructed the schools to provide staff on Wednesday (Jan 19) morning in case there are students who did not receive the news of the school closures," he said.

He said the district education office will announce any decision on the reopening of the 10 schools no later than this Saturday (Jan 22), based on the decisions and advice of the South Seberang Prai district disaster management committee.

Mohamad Dziauddin said that during the closure, students will resume their learning through online classes and the schools are required to inform teachers and parents about the online classes.

It was reported that some 400 residents from 86 families living near the Pulau Burung landfill had to be evacuated following the unhealthy Air Quality Index reading as a result of the fire that broke out at the landfill.

Meanwhile, state police chief Comm Datuk Mohd Shuhaily Mohd Zain has assured the residents who have been ordered to evacuate their homes not to worry about the safety of their neighborhood.

Comm Mohd Shuhaily said police personnel on duty including the Motorcycle Patrol Unit (URB) as well as the South Seberang Prai district Patrol Car Unit (MPV) will conduct regular patrols in the affected areas.

"The police will conduct patrols in the affected areas and residents who have been instructed to move to a temporary relief centre don't have to worry," he said in a post on the Penang PDRM Facebook page on Monday (Jan 17).

Comm Mohd Shuhaily visited the landfill site on Monday, accompanied by the South Seberang Prai OCPD Supt Lee Chong Chern and his deputy DSP Baeyah Abdul Wahab.

Present during the visit were Fire and Rescue Department Prai zone chief Nor Hairulddin Noraidin, who briefed Comm Mohd Shuhaily on the latest in the fire incident.

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