JOHOR BAHRU: Two schools in Pasir Gudang, Johor were on Monday (Mar 11) ordered to close for the second time in five days after several students and teachers experienced breathing difficulties.
The complaints came about five hours after the schools, Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Pasir Putih and Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Pasir Putih, were allowed to reopen on Monday.
They were initially ordered shut on Mar 7 after breathing in methane fumes from chemicals that were illegally dumped into a nearby river.
Students and teachers again reported having breathing difficulties, nausea and vomiting on Monday.
A total of 61 people, 57 of whom are students, were admitted to the emergency unit of Sultan Ismail Hospital.
The schools will remain closed until a decision is made by the Johor Disaster Action Committee, said Johor Health, Environment and Agriculture Committee chairman Sahruddin Jamal.
READ: Pasir Gudang methane poisoning: Schools to reopen Monday, oil samples to be collected from river
FACTORY OWNERS DETAINED
Three men, including two factory owners, were detained on Monday on suspicion of disposing chemical waste into Sungai Kim Kim.
One of them is the owner of a chemical-processing plant, while the other man owns a used goods-processing factory. Both men are in their 50s. The third suspect is said to be a worker who is in his 40s.
Johor Department of Environment (DoE) director Mohammad Ezzani Mat Salleh said the first suspect was arrested on Sunday while the other two were detained on Monday.
"We then handed them to the police for investigation under Section 34B of the Environmental Quality Act 1974,” he told reporters outside the used goods-processing factory, located about 500m from the chemical waste dumping site.
READ: Pasir Gudang methane poisoning: 21 students still in hospital after illegal waste dumping in river
Mohammad Ezzani said the owner of the chemical-processing plant was arrested based on the DoE’s analysis of the chemicals found at the dumping site, while the other factory owner was caught with chemicals similar to those dumped into the river.
He added that the registered plant in Kulai had previously been sealed for causing pollution, while the local authority is still in the process of determining the legality of the used goods-processing factory.
"Both factories are now sealed … we will open investigation papers for prosecution in court. If possible, within this week ... but it depends on the police investigation and the deputy public prosecutor," he said.
A visit to the used goods-processing factory found no workers present, with discarded items strewn all over the compound.