The situation around Malaysia’s Pasir Gudang gas poisoning has worsened, with the number of victims nearly tripling from under 1,000 on Thursday (March 14) to 2,775 on Friday (March 15), state news agency Bernama reported.
The source of the toxic gas is illegally-dumped chemical waste in Sungai Kim Kim, a river that flows into the Johor Strait separating Malaysia from neighboring Singapore.
Singapore’s environmental agency said in a statement that the affected area in Pasir Gudang was located outside the Johor River catchment, which supplies water to the republic – and that the country had not detected anomalies in its air or water quality.
The Malaysian Armed Forces dispatched medics and two teams with expertise in chemical and radioactive waste to help with cleanup efforts, Bernama said in a report on March 14. They join a list of government agencies on the scene, including the police, the Hazardous Materials Management (Hazmat) Team, and the National Disaster Management Agency.
Prime Minster Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who visited victims of the pollution at the Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor Bahru on March 14, said that the situation was currently “under control”, and had not reached a state where residents needed to be evacuated from the area.
Just a day earlier, Malaysia’s lower house of Parliament approved an emergency motion for Johor’s federal government to declare a state of emergency, The Star reported.
The education ministry also instructed 111 schools and 92 kindergartens and nurseries in the area to suspend operations.
Malaysia’s environment minister Yeo Bee Yin said the Government aims to inspect all 254 chemical plants in Pasir Gudang within three days to nab those responsible for the dumping.
The ministry previously arrested three suspects on March 11, including the owner of an illegal tyre recycling factory in Kulai and the owner of a waste processing factory in Pasir Putih.
PM Mahathir added that in light of the severity of the pollution, the Government was mulling a review of the Environmental Quality Act 1974 to impose heavier penalties on those responsible.