130 pupils, teachers fall sick barely hours after schools reopen in Pasir Gudang

Medical staff going to the aid of pupils having breathing difficulties in Pasir Gudang today. (Bernama pic)

JOHOR BAHRU: Just hours after schools in Pasir Gudang reopened, after being closed since last Tuesday due to respiratory problems, students experienced the same breathing difficulties and nausea in several schools today.

The Bernama journalist assigned to cover the reopening of Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Kopok at 8.30am today, witnessed the incident in which several students and teachers fainted.

The other schools believed to be affected are Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Tanjung Puteri Resort, SMK Seri Alam Dua, SK Taman Pasir Putih, SK Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil Ladang Sungai Plentong, SMK Taman Nusa Damai and SK Taman Cendana.

At least three ambulances from the Civil Defence Force and Sultan Ismail Hospital were seen rushing to the SK Kopok school.

Parents were also seen taking their children back home.

Up till now, 30 students and teachers from 15 schools in Pasir Gudang have been referred to the health clinic following symptoms of vomiting and dizziness this morning.

Johor Health, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Mohd Khuzzan Abu Bakar said at least 130 students were found to have experienced breathing difficulties and nausea.

After the screening, only 30 people, including three teachers, were referred to the Masai and Pasir Gudang health clinics.

However, schools will remain open and classes will go on as usual today, he said.

“Our only advice to the schools is that if students experience any symptoms, immediately take them to the health clinic.

“In the morning, checks by the Pasir Gudang Emergency Mutual Aid (Pagema) showed that air quality readings were still at a normal level,” he told reporters after visiting SK Kopok here today.

According to him, most of the students who experienced the symptoms were in classrooms located at higher levels.

“So, tomorrow, we will move them to a lower level as a precautionary measure,” he said.

Some 111 primary and secondary schools in Pasir Gudang reopened today.

In BANGI, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said there is a need for a long-term plan to resolve the pollution problems in Pasir Gudang in a comprehensive manner.

She said a long-term solution was necessary as pollution had affected the health of residents in the area.

“After these incidents, the energy, science, technology, environment and climate change ministry had implemented several short-term measures, including building automatic gas monitoring stations in the area.

“This is good because it gives a warning once the amount of toxic materials in the air exceeds the critical level. This will enable immediate action to be taken, including evacuating residents,” she told reporters after closing the Welfare Department’s 2019 junior leadership programme here.

But this could not provide a comprehensive solution in the long run because of the centralised location of factories and their proximity to residential areas, she said.

Wan Azizah said the government might have to think of ways to resettle the residents, with the consent of the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar.

She said the economic output by the manufacturing industry in the area should also be considered when drawing up the long-term plan.

Sultan Ibrahim had expressed his displeasure over the chemical dumping and air pollution incidents which hit Pasir Gudang this year.

He had ordered the authorities to take quick action to overcome the problems, including arresting and punishing the culprits.