Teams from the Fire and Rescue Department have been deployed to monitor air, water and soil for chemical contamination near Sungai Kim Kim.
Department director-general Datuk Mohammad Hamdan Wahid said these teams were working round the clock to enable authorities to assess the situation in the affected areas.
They would collect samples from around the river as well as the nearby housing estate and public places to be analysed, he said.
Mohammad Hamdan said the department would then share the results of their findings and work with other agencies to coordinate their disaster management efforts.“We have had personnel at the location since we responded to the distress call on March 7.
“Public safety is our paramount concern and to ensure that we have adequate personnel, we have mobilised almost 10 Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) units from around the country and deployed them to Pasir Gudang.“We have also moved our equipment and assets to the affected areas with an operations base set up next to the red zone or Ground Zero,” he said in an interview.
Emergency medical rescue service ambulances, he added, were now stationed at the Pasir Gudang indoor stadium to help with rescue and pre-medical efforts.
“The department has handled many chemical spills, but the Pasir Gudang incident involves a large area. The source and origin of the contamination is not just confined to one main spot like a gas leak.
“The affected stretch is huge and there are many types of chemicals involved,” he said, adding that the task was time consuming and the clean-up cost would be high.
He also said closing schools in the vicinity was a step in the right direction as it helped to reduce the number of schoolchildren affected.
“I always believe it is better to be cautious when it comes to dealing with unknown chemicals,” he said.
He noted that the unstable physical characteristics of the chemical along with the changing weather conditions, including wind directions, had also affected operations.
He said the teams would remain in Pasir Gudang for as long as they were needed and that the department was prepared for any eventuality or scenarios.
Meanwhile, during a visit to Sungai Kim Kim, The Star saw that a 1.5km stretch of river had been dredged in an effort to clean it.
Dozens of bags were seen being filled with the dredged silt to be transported to a safe site. At least two tractors were used in the clean-up.At a forward base next to the river, several Department of Environment personnel, who carried out checks around the river, experienced dizzy spells and had to seek medical attention.
In Putrajaya, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said authorities had responded satisfactorily to the incident.The Prime Minister also commended the work of hospital staff during the crisis and pointed out that they had saved lives.
“I am satisfied with the work done to counter the effects of this poisoning. The hospital staff did a good job.“It is unusual to have people poisoned by such chemicals. But they have prevented any death from taking place. Most of those who are still in hospital will be discharged as soon as they recover.
“Overall, I see the handling has been very good and I see no reason to announce any emergency measures,” Dr Mahathir told a press conference at the Perdana Leadership Foundation here.