Toxic fumes shut down Malé school

A school located a block away from Malé’s powerhouse was shut down today after teachers and hundreds of students complained of headaches and vomiting due to toxic fumes.

The principal of Kalaafaanu School, Nazleen Wafir, said the school will be closed until Saturday as officials from the environment ministry determine the source of the fumes.

Wafir said six students had complained of toxic fumes on Tuesday, but there were more complaints today with at least two students throwing up.

“No one is in critical condition, however, heavy fumes rose from the whole school area, so we decided to call off sessions,” she said.

A Kalaafaanu student, Nuha Naseer, 15, said the smell was very strong throughout the school today. “I saw one student fall from dizziness. It was as if something had exploded inside the school.”

Another student in eighth grade, who wished to remain anonymous, said many of his classmates complained of headaches today, and all students were sent home at 10:00am.

The state electricity company’s managing director Abdul Shakoor said STELCO had turned off two power generators on Tuesday when the smell was first reported. This is the first case of its kind in 25 years, he added.

The power generators are located 30-40 meters above ground, Shukoor said, suggesting that the incident may have occurred due to a lack of wind in the dry season.

April and May are the hottest months of the year in the Maldives.

Officials from the environmental protection agency will make public a report into the source of fumes by Saturday, he said.

The education ministry said the school is scheduled to re-open on Sunday.

A senior teacher at Kalaafaanu, Abdul Fahthaah, said; “These days without the school sessions are, of course, a loss. However, we hope we are able to resume classes on Sunday.”

President of the Teacher’s Association of Maldives, Athif Abdul Hakeem, said he hoped the situation is resolved as soon as possible, and said: “I believe the school is going to organise classes on Saturdays to make up for the classes that were missed, however, it is quite a burden for people to come to school and go back again due to such mishaps.”