GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Malaysian authorities are trying to douse a major fire at a rubbish landfill in Penang since last week, with 10 schools around the site ordered shut for three days from Wednesday (Jan 19) as acrid smell pervades the air.
Around 400 residents living near the Pulau Burung landfill, located on mainland Penang state, were told over the weekend to evacuate to relief centres.
Fire broke out at the landfill last Wednesday (Jan 12), affecting an area of 6.5ha of the total of 16.2ha of the rubbish dump.
As a rough comparison, Singapore’s Padang, a large open field in front of the former City Hall, is about 4.3ha in size.
Penang’s southern district education chief Mohamad Dziauddin Mat Saad said the decision to shut the 10 schools within a 10-km radius in the Nibong Tebal district was made after a district disaster management meeting on Monday (Jan 17).
The meeting concluded that the Air Quality Index of the areas around the schools “could affect the health and threaten the lives of residents”, he said in a statement on Tuesday (Jan 18).
Mr Dziauddin said that during the three-day closure, students will resume their learning through online classes and the schools are required to inform teachers and parents about the online classes.
Malaysia’s Environment and Water Deputy Minister Datuk Mansor Othman said it could take another week to extinguish the fire at the rubbish dump. The landfill is managed by a private company.
“The Fire and Rescue Services Department is facing a water shortage problem due to the low water pressure as well as shortage of sand to put out the fire,” he told reporters, as quoted by Bernama news agency, after visiting the site on Monday .