Noxious fumes from fire-struck Pulau Burung landfill forces Penang schools nearby to close temporarily

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The Pulau Burung landfill caught fire last Wednesday and the Fire and Rescue Department reportedly only managed to extinguish 7 per cent of the total 80 per cent at the landfill. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
The Pulau Burung landfill caught fire last Wednesday and the Fire and Rescue Department reportedly only managed to extinguish 7 per cent of the total 80 per cent at the landfill. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Jan 18 — Barely a week after physical classes resumed this year, schools near the Pulau Burung landfill in mainland Penang have been ordered to close and switch to home-based teaching and learning for the rest of this week due to noxious fumes from a fire last week.

Education chief officer for Seberang Perai Selatan district, Mohamad Dziauddin Mat Saad said the air index for schools within a 10km radius of the landfill is now at Level Three under the Acute Exposure Guidelines, which could cause severe effects to the health and lives of residents.

“This decision was made at the district disaster meeting held yesterday and the report was submitted to the state education director and he has given the permission for the schools to close starting from January 19 to 21,” he said in a statement today.

The schools involved are SJKT Ladang Byram, SJKC Pai Teik, SMK Seri Nibong, SJKT Nibong Tebal, SK Seri Sentosa, SK Keledang Jaya, SJKT Ladang Changkat, SMK Methodist, SK Methodist and SK Nibong Tebal.

Mohamad Dziauddin told the schools involved to inform their respective canteen operators, school bus operators of the temporary closure, and have staff on standby to manage students who turn up at the schools tomorrow.

School is out today as it is Thaipusam, a public holiday for Penang.

Mohamad Dziauddin added that during the temporary school closure, the administration of the schools involved must inform their teachers and parents of students that learning will home-based again.

“We will announce an update of the status of the school operations the latest by this Saturday, based on decisions and advice from the Seberang Perai Selatan District Disaster Committee,” he said.

He advised all school personnel to wear face masks at all times, reduce outdoor activities and to seek immediate medical treatment if they did not feel well.

The Pulau Burung landfill caught fire last Wednesday and the Fire and Rescue Department reportedly only managed to extinguish 7 per cent of the total 80 per cent at the landfill.

Nibong Tebal fire and rescue station operations officer Noor Asfariza Mohamad Abdul Kadir reportedly said it will take up to two weeks for the fire to be completely extinguished.

About 6.5 hectares of the 16.2 hectares landfill area is affected by the fire.

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