JOHOR BARU - The chemical pollution in Pasir Gudang has led to mass buying of face masks, with many outlets having run out of stock.
Besides the N95 (respirator) masks, ordinary face masks are also in high demand.
Many outlets in the area had run out of supply since Tuesday. Checks at five outlets in Pasir Gudang showed empty shelves.
According to the workers, they were not sure when the new orders would arrive as "even the suppliers do not have stock". They advised the public to look for masks in other areas such as Johor Baru.
KPJ Pasir Gudang consultant general and respiratory physician Dr Che' Wan Aminuddin Hashim said the recommended face mask was the N95 variety which was suitable to protect against environmental pollution.
"There are several types of face masks available. The ones we use in the medical field is known as the surgical mask, which can offer the wearer better protection against infection.
"There are various types of N95 in the market which are commonly used by those handling gases or pollution," he said at the KPJ Pasir Gudang Specialist Hospital on Wednesday (March 13).
The state government has ordered a total of 111 schools in and around Pasir Gudang in Johor closed pending further notice.
Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said he made the decision after being told that the situation had reached "critical" level. He directed all teachers involved to "stop work" at once given the severity of the situation.
The list included the 13 schools closed down earlier due to chemical pollution in Sungai Kim Kim, which had affected almost 300 people.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Sekolah Bimbingan Jalinan Kasih, Maszlee said the type of poisonous gas emitting from the river in question had not been ascertained.
"While waiting for updates from the Department of Environment (DoE), the ministry is keeping close tabs on the situation.
"The Johor government and State Disaster Management Committee will update us on the latest through the Johor Education Department," he said.
Maszlee said the decision made on the school closures and others were based on the advice of the committee which comprised experts.
"The ministry's top priority is the safety of students, teachers and support staff whom we regard as family. The best must be done for them. We will hold a discussion with the committee,'' he said.
Saying he was saddened and angered by the pollution of Sungai Kim Kim, the minister hoped that justice would be served on the criminals who had caused much suffering to "my education family".
About 266 victims are being treated at the Sultan Ismail Hospital, with 42 warded at the Sultanah Aminah Hospital since the chemical pollution was reported last Thursday.
Johor executive councillor Dr Sahruddin Jamal was reported to have said that a contractor licensed by the DoE would be appointed to clean up the river.
He said the affected stretch spanned 1.5km and the exercise would be coordinated by the DoE and Drainage and Irrigation Department.