No need to declare state of emergency in Pasir Gudang, says Mahathir

No need to declare state of emergency in Pasir Gudang, says Mahathir

Pasir Gudang methane Mahathir Hospital Sultan Ismail
Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad arrives at Hospital Sultan Ismail in Johor, Mar 14, 2019. (Photo: Bernama)

JOHOR BAHRU: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad stressed on Thursday (Mar 14) that there was no need to declare an emergency in the wake of the toxic waste pollution in Pasir Gudang, which has affected more than 2,700 people.

However, he reminded all quarters to exercise more caution in view of the ongoing crisis.

“No … it has not reached that stage (where an emergency has to be declared). There is no need for any evacuation, but we must be careful," Dr Mahathir said, when asked if there was need to declare an emergency for Pasir Gudang or evacuation of residents there.

“Those mobilised to contain the situation must also be prepared to handle the problem,” he told reporters after visiting victims who have been admitted to the Sultan Ismail Hospital.

Pasir Gudang methane Mahathir hospital sultan ismail johor
Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad arrives at Hospital Sultan Ismail in Johor, Mar 14, 2019. (Photo: Bernama)

“We cannot say the worst is over," he said.

“On the other hand, we don’t think it is going to be more serious than now. But what is important is that they know how to handle this problem.”

READ: Pasir Gudang chemical poisoning: Over 2,700 people affected; no state of emergency for now

READ: Pasir Gudang chemical poisoning: 111 schools shut, suspect to be charged on Thursday

Dr Mahathir also praised the agencies under the State Disaster Management Committee, highlighting the medical and security teams' efficiency in tackling the crisis and preventing it from becoming worse.

Pasir Gudang methane Mahathir hospital
Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian listen to a briefing at Hospital Sultan Ismail in Johor, Mar 14, 2019. (Photo: Bernama)

“I found from the briefings I was given by various parties that they had carried out their duties well even though such a situation has never happened before (in the country). The Fire and Rescue Department, police, hospitals, schools, and others handled the situation admirably,” he said.

He also praised the doctors and medical staff  for their “extraordinary response” in the face of this gas poisoning incident.

CLEANING CONTRACTOR WORSENED THE PROBLEM

Initial cleaning works on Mar 8 had inadvertently worsened the chemical reaction at the affected location, causing a spike in the number of people affected, said the National Disaster Management Agency.

According to the New Straits Times, Terbrau MP Steven Choong Shiau Yoon said that the first contractor, which was appointed by the district office, was not experienced in dealing with chemical waste.

Pasir Gudang methane poisoning Sungai Kim Kim clean
The Malaysian federal and state governments will both manage the cost of the cleaning the river. (Photo: Twitter/Osman Sapian)

“After informing the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment, and Climate Change Ministry (of the problem), I was instructed to form a special committee with relevant government agencies to ensure a smooth cleaning process," said Mr Choong.

“A contractor was appointed at the time to start on the cleaning process, but the state Health Department informed me that the contractor had no experience in cleaning up such chemical waste." 

The contractor has since ceased operations.

Three new contractors have been appointed by the Department of Environment to continue cleaning efforts.

ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT MAY BE REVIEWED

Dr Mahathir also said he has not ruled out the possibility that the Environmental Quality Act 1974 would be reviewed in light of the incident. 

This follows an outcry from the public that the punishment for those found guilty for offences under the Act are not severe enough.

Pasir Gudang chemical poisoning Sungai Kim Kim River
Fumes from toxic chemicals dumped in Sungai Kim Kim caused students and teachers from nearby schools to experience shortness of breath and vomiting. (Photo: Bernama)

"We take note of that, usually we face water or solid-based contamination, but this is gas contamination, something we have not dealt with," he told reporters at the Sultan Ismail Hospital on Thursday.

"We will study whether the Act should be strengthened."

Three suspects have been detained by the Department of Environment under the Environmental Quality Act 1974 in connection with the contamination. 

If convicted, they face a maximum jail sentence of five years and a maximum fine of RM500,000.

Pasir Gudang methane poisoning Sungai Kim Kim cleaning works underway
Authorities believe the poisoning in Pasir Gudang was caused by toxic waste that had been illegally dumped into a Sungai Kim Kim. (Photo: Twitter/Osman Sapian)

Source: Bernama/ic(hm)

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