Thirty-four schools in Malaysia have been ordered to shut after a suspected chemical leak last week left more than 200 children, teachers and others being treated for poisoning, the education ministry said on Wednesday March 13th.
According to Reuters, local media authorities believe the poisoning was caused by toxic waste dumped into a river near the schools in the southern state of Johor.
Education Minister Maszlee Malik said in a statement posted on his official Facebook page: "unfortunately, I was told today that the situation is getting more critical.”
He added: "I've ordered for all schools within a three-kilometre radius be shut immediately.”
The number of people treated climbed to 207 compared to 35 reported last week. As of Monday, 44 were in hospital where six were in intensive care. Thirty-three of them are pupils.
The Malaysian Straits Times reported that the chemicals, believed to contain heavy metals used in processes at a scrapyard and a chemical factory in the Kulai area, were discharged into the Sungai Kim Kim River that flows into the Strait of Johor near Singapore's Pulau Ubin.
“An illegal factory owner involved in tyre recycling in Kulai, Johor, is expected to be charged on Thursday (March 14th) in connection with the dumping,” Malaysia's environment minister Yeo Bee Yin said.