The Heroes of Pasir Gudang Crisis
Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards winners work hand in hand to provide aid for the victims and first responders of Pasir Gudang toxic fumes crisis.
Based on a report by the Department of Environment (DOE) in 2017, a total of 51 rivers nationwide are deemed as polluted. 57% or 29 of those rivers or are in Johor making us the State with the most number of polluted rivers in the country.
The Sg. Kim Kim river toxic waste dumping incident in Pasir Gudang here forced a total of 5,848 people to seek treatment after being exposed to very high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said out of the total number of victims, 951 were warded and 25 ended up in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The toxic pollution had also forced the closure of all 111 schools in Pasir Gudang until the 31st of March.
In 2017, a Swedish journal published the background levels of VOC in schools in Johor Bahru and even then, the VOCs were already identified as risk factors for ocular (eye) and throat symptoms, fatigue and headache amongst the JB school children. For example, the indoor and outdoor levels of benzene detected were 4.6 ug/m3 (1 ppb) and 5.1 ug/m3 (1.6 ppb), respectively. Even then, 50% of the indoor and outdoor benzene levels in schools already exceeded the European Union standard of 5.0 ug/m3. Most of these VOCs came from outdoor sources, notably from transportation sources – (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969717304734?via%3Dihub).
Emerging from this crisis are the unsung heroes who worked tirelessly to treat victims, provide medical aid, food and essential items to the victims and first responders of the crisis in Pasir Gudang. The heroes were there to care and comfort distraught victims while helping to prevent others from getting sick by sourcing nationwide and to neighbouring Singapore to provide the right protective masks to the residents.
The heroes were also busy getting daily meals organised for the victims, next of kin and uniformed personnel. Most of the heroes, who were on the ground, risking their own health and safety, are winners of the Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA). The awards’ programme was established in 2014 by The Iskandarian Newspaper and IRDA in an effort to spot, recognise and empower selfless individuals and organisations that have made significant contributions to the community through impactful and meaningful community services.
At Ground Zero – Red Zone
The Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia’s Response and Relief Team (IMARET) were among the first to be at the Red Zone. They sent volunteer doctors and paramedics to the crisis centre at the Pasir Gudang Stadium to work hand in hand with Johor Bahru District Health Centre to provide emergency first aid to victims. (IMARET won IMSHA in 2018 for the Disaster Relief organisation category).
Also sending volunteer doctors, nurses and paramedics to the red zone was Mercy Malaysia. (Mercy Malaysia won IMSHA in 2014 for the Disaster Relief organisation category). Johor ruler His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar pledged RM1 million to help the crisis situation and as the Royal Adviser to the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, Johor Permaisuri Raja Zarith Sofiah Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah sprung into action and activated the Malaysian Red Crescent to provide aid and supply of over 1000 packs of food per day for victims and first responders. (Malaysian Red Crescent won IMSHA in 2015 for the Disaster Relief organisation category).
The Johor Relief Organisation or widely known as Ihsan Johor were known for building houses for the less fortunate with the help of volunteers. However, their involvement in providing aid in Lombok gave them a new direction. Known as Ihsan Johor Rangers, the organisation’s troop of volunteers worked relentlessly at Pasir Gudang, deploying over 200 volunteers to distribute 8940 masks which they purchased by raising RM26,775.28 via crowdfunding to the residents surrounding the crisis area. (Ihsan Johor won IMSHA in 2018 for the Social Innovation organisation category).
Aaduka Fairuz and his band of Sahabat Johor DT volunteers who are more focused on environmental issues mobilised themselves from Pontian, Johor to help with masks, food, and basic needs distribution to the victims and residents. Aaduka’s WhatsApp group, titled ‘Pray for Pasir Gudang’ attracted few hundred members and quickly became the communication channel for many to obtain first hand information. (Sahabat Johor DT won IMSHA in 2018 for the Environmental Preservation organisation category).
While most of the heroes were working around the clock at the red zone, IMSHA winners consisting of JB TRACERS (2017 IMSHA winner for Public Safety organisation category), Johor Truck 4×4 (2017 IMSHA winner for Disaster Relief organisation category), Kechara Soup Kitchen (2014 IMSHA winner for Poverty & Hunger Relief organisation category) with the support of Yvonne Loh, Secretary of Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Johor Chapter and IMSHA Leadership Council Judge swiftly came together to give food aid to the first responders involved.
Razali Tompang, the administrator of JB TRACERS initiated the #MealsOnUs project. He roped in Abdul Zanar Khamis to join in as the Ground Relief Command to coordinate with Hospital Sultan Ismail (HSI) while Yvonne Loh, got in touch with hoteliers around Johor to send in support. In total, 31 hotels came forth to do their part in providing lunch and dinner for the first responders while fast food chain Marrybrown provided breakfast for three days till stand down order.
Food delivery from the hotels to HSI was organised by Jamilah Zainal from JB Trucks 4×4 alongside Merlin Hoo of Kechara Soup Kitchen and a group of volunteers known as Causeway Riders.
Over 4000 packs of food were delivered till the stand down order was issued. The hotels that lent their support to this project are Amari Johor Bahru, Thistle Johor Bahru, Puteri Pacific Hotel, Swiss-Inn Johor Bahru, Tanjong Puteri Golf Resort, New York Hotel, Somerset Puteri Harbour Iskandar Puteri, Pulai Springs Resort, Mutiara Johor Bahru, Grand Paragon Hotel, Ponderosa Golf & Country Resort, Silka Johor Bahru, Hotel Granada Johor Bahru, Millesime Hotel, Lakeview Terrace Resort, Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort, Lotus Desaru Beach Resort & Spa, Renaissance Johor Bahru Hotel, DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru, Good Hope Hotel, Pinetree Marina Resort, Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour, LEGOLAND Hotel, Ramada Meridin Johor Bahru, Country Garden Forest City Golf Hotel, Trove Johor Bahru, Baguss City Hotel, Impiana Hotel Senai, Amansari Residence Resort, Seri Alam and Amansari Hotel Nusajaya.
Upon hearing that the IMSHA winners were in the thick of the action, many corporate entities came forward to do their part. Among the corporate companies that came forward to assist the IMSHA winners are Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ), Iskandar Investment Berhad (IIB), Sunway Iskandar, UMLand Seri Alam, Marrybrown and Gleneagles Medini.
Citizens of Johor can sleep better knowing that not merely one hero but dozens of them are looking out for the wellbeing of everyone without fear or favour, without discrimination of any kind and without expecting anything in return. The 6th edition of Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA) is now open for nominations. Spare a minute to nominate your hero at https://goo.gl/forms/GzWMFijJGFSUdYEu2 and follow their social media pages for updates.