Malaysia’s government has ordered 111 schools to close on Wednesday in southern Johor state after more than 500 people, including students and teachers, fall ill by inhaling toxic fumes illegally dumped into a river.
Victims were treated for breathing difficulties, dizziness, nausea and vomiting from the waste. Officials said 166 people were hospitalized, and several were under intensive care and cleanup efforts are ongoing
A truck is believed to have dumped the waste in the south of Johor state last week, sending hazardous fumes across a wide area.
Three men were arrested over the toxic waste dumpin., One is expected to be charged in court soon and could face up to five years in jail if found guilty of breaking environmental laws.
Education Minister Maszlee Malek earlier Wednesday told 34 schools to shut down and later said that number was up to 111 schools.
“The ministry of education has decided to close all 111 schools in the Pasir Gudang area immediately,” he said in a statement. “The education ministry is requesting that all parties take precautions.”
However, it was unclear what type of poisonous gas had been emitted near the industrial town of Pasir Gudang. Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said that “rain could have caused the contamination to spread despite efforts to contain it’.