KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday that the situation in an area of the southern Johor state was under control, after hundreds of people fell sick due to chemical pollution.
Mahathir told a press conference after a visit to Pasir Gudang, the affected area, that he was satisfied that state authorities had done their best to respond to the situation.
"The situation is under control. Even if there is a recurrence or other people get affected, I think the people who are tasked with dealing with this problem, they know their way about and they know how to control this unusual poisoning by gas," he said.
Mahathir also said there are no plans to evacuate people from the area and urged those in Pasir Gudang to trust the government's handling of the situation.
Earlier several members of parliament had urged the government to declare a state of emergency in the area, but the suggestion was dismissed on the grounds that state authorities were able to handle the situation.
The Malaysian Health Ministry reported that at least 937 people had needed treatment up to Wednesday.
Pasir Gudang is an industrial area located near the state capital of Johor Baru that borders Singapore. There are several major factories in the area involved in petrochemicals, palm oil and other heavy industries.
The authorities closed 111 schools on Wednesday after students and members of the public were given treatment for exposure to chemicals, with symptoms including shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting.
When the incident broke out last week, authorities were forced to evacuate over 1,000 people, mostly school students, after chemicals were illegally dumped in a river in the area.