The government is in the midst of identifying the culprits behind the chemical pollution in Pasir Gudang which has so far affected the health of over 2,000 people in the area.
This was confirmed by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad at a press conference after visiting some of the victims being treated at the Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor Bahru today.
The incident, which began on March 7, is now under control as various government agencies have been mobilised to the affected areas to address the issue and provide the best treatment to the victims involved.
Among the Federal Government agencies involved in handling the case are the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma), the Malaysian Armed Forces, the Health Ministry and Environment Department.
Also involved in the crisis management operations are the police, the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department, Hazardous Materials Management (Hazmat) Team, Drainage and Irrigation Department and Education Ministry.
To date, 2,775 people have sought treatment at several hospitals in Johor due to the incident, with seven of them in the Intensive Care Unit.
It also led to the Education Ministry directing the closure of all 111 schools in the Pasir Gudang district as a precautionary measure. A total of 92 kindergartens and nurseries in affected areas have also followed suit.
To ensure that the number of victims remains at a manageable level, the state government has also begun periodic checks on the air quality to keep the public informed.
Residents in the area have also been advised to be more environmentally conscious and to follow the instructions of the authorities.
Meanwhile, Mahathir also praised the personnel of various agencies who have worked hard to bring the situation under control.
"They have done their job well even though such a case has never occurred (here)," said Mahathir, who described the response of doctors and medical personnel to the situation as 'extraordinary'.
‘Thorough investigation to be conducted’
Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeo Bee Yin when answering questions on the matter in Parliament today stressed that the ministry was committed to investigating the incident thoroughly and bring those responsible to justice.
"The ministry has mobilised resources from other states to inspect all 254 chemical plants in the vicinity of Pasir Gudang within three days," he said.
She said among the early actions taken was to detain three men including two factory owners under Section 34B of the Environmental Quality Act, 1974.
"If convicted, they can be fined up to RM500,000 and jailed for not more than five years ... this is only for the Act under this ministry, if there is an investigation involving the police or other agencies, then further charges can be framed," she said.
Meanwhile, the screening centre for victims at Dewan Komuniti Pasir Puteh (DKPP) was closed and moved to the Pasir Gudang Indoor Stadium due to the proximity of DKPP to Sungai Kim Kim.
Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah Ahmad Shah urged the public to use the Mobile i-Tegur application to report any illegal waste dumping so that action could be taken against the culprits.
Biro Guaman Wanita (Guamnita), a legal aid bureau for women, offered to assist victims of the disaster to seek legal recourse.
Its chairperson Azlinda Baroni said those needing its help could do so by emailing to [email protected]
Barisan Nasional deputy chairperson Mohamad Hasan, meanwhile, urged the government to table a White Paper in Parliament on the crisis.
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang in a statement said the party had despatched members of its Amal unit to render assistance to those in need.