JOHOR BARU: A gas-like stench from a chemical spill at Kampung Baru Sri Aman here has ignited fear and anger among the villagers, raising the spectre of the Sungai Kim Kim pollution in the state two years ago.
Contractor Yahya Mohd Nasir, 56, was asleep when he got a call from his neighbour at around 10.30pm on Tuesday alerting him to the foul smell.
"I got up to open my front door and was immediately greeted by the strong gas-like odour.
"I noticed there were diesel-like substances in the drain around my house, too, which emitted vapour.
"I quickly held a towel to my nose and mouth and shut the door, but the smell was still quite strong," he said when met yesterday.
The neighbour who called him, said Yahya, later experienced breathing difficulties and dizziness and was sent to the hospital for medical attention.
He added that some firefighters who had come to their village advised them to evacuate and move to a multi-purpose hall nearby.
"Concerned about the Covid-19 situation, I decided to go to my sister's house in Larkin for the time being.
"I feel angry that irresponsible people chose to dump hazardous materials in our village. Don't they know that their actions put us all in harm's way?" he bristled.
Housewife Rozie Ahmad said her sister collapsed before her eyes.
The 46-year-old said her husband had told her of a strong petrol smell coming from outside their home at around 7.30pm on Tuesday.
"We ignored it at first but the smell grew stronger. My sister then complained of a severe headache before fainting in front of me.
"We then dragged my sister to our car but when we were outside, I, too, passed out from the overpowering smell," she added.
Her husband drove her and her sister to the Sultanah Aminah Hospital.
"I regained consciousness soon after. Though she is in a stable condition, my sister is still warded," she said.
Four women aged 22 to 49 were sent to hospital after experiencing breathing difficulties and nausea following the contamination.
Rabiatul Adawiyah Muhd Zairan, 15, said her sister was among the four.
"I was out delivering homemade burgers to my neighbours when I returned home to find my sister, who has Down Syndrome, complaining that she felt weak and dizzy.
"My parents were selling food in Tampoi at the time and they rushed home to send my sister to hospital. She even threw up in the car.
"The situation was quite chaotic and scary," the student added.
Another resident, who only wanted to be known as Izaty, was seen evacuating her home with her two young daughters yesterday morning.
"I was reluctant to do so on Tuesday night because of concern for the safety of my two young girls as the Covid-19 cases are still rather high. At the same time, I was also worried that it would become another Sungai Kim Kim incident.
"After talking to my family, I decided to take my daughters to seek shelter at the multi-purpose hall and give way to the authorities to conduct tests and inspections," she said.
The incident she was referring to was the March 2019 chemical pollution in Pasir Gudang, which resulted in over 4,000 people taking ill and 111 schools in the district being temporarily closed.
Meanwhile, Green Earth Society Johor secretary Ahlami Mirza Ahmad urged the state government to form an action council to look into river pollution.
"About three years ago, there was a serious discussion involving the state government, agencies and NGOs in forming an action council on rivers in Johor.
"However, the plan did not materialise after the general election and change of government in 2018," he said.
Ahlami said the Sungai Kim Kim incident, just two years ago, should have been a wake-up call for the government to tackle pollution.
"Many agencies are facing a manpower shortage which makes it hard for them to carry out enforcement on pollution, but with this council, we will be able to share data and resources to take care of the rivers here," he added.
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