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NAIROBI: At least 80 people have died in Kenya and dozens more have been blinded or fallen ill after drinking a toxic homebrew thought to have been laced with industrial chemicals, officials said on Wednesday.
Kenya's National Disaster Operation Centre said in a statement that 80 people had been killed in four districts, updating earlier tolls as the number of victims continues to climb. Hospital sources said dozens more were receiving treatment.
Some woke up blind after sleeping off the drink, local media reported, while others lost their sight more slowly. Some victims complained of acute stomach pain, blurred vision and general weakness.
One victim in hospital recounted his symptoms started with what felt like a prolonged and intense hangover, with a pounding headache. But his sight then became blurred, and by the time he was interviewed, he could no longer see anything.
He told local media that if he survived he would give up drink for good. "What we are trying to establish is the origin of this brew," police spokeswoman, Zipporah Mboroki said.
"Investigations are under way and samples will be taken to ascertain where and how it was prepared."
It is not clear if a single brew is responsible for all the deaths, but victims have come from towns both close to the capital Nairobi as well as in the centre and east of the country.
In some areas, the alcohol was bought from licensed bars, but in others it was sold on the street in the slums, officials said.
Deaths from toxic alcohol are relatively common in Kenya, with similar cases making the headlines every year.
Locally-distilled alcohol, usually made from fermented maize or sorghum, is popular among the poor, as it is a fraction of the price of commercial and legally made brews.
Some of the latest victims paid as little as a third of a dollar for the shot that resulted in their hospitalisation, according to local media.
Some unscrupulous manufacturers add methanol to the concoction -- a chemical whose industrial uses include the manufacture of anti-freeze -- in order to increase its alcohol content.
Some batches that have proved lethal in recent years have turned out to be pure methanol.
John Mututho, chief of Kenya's National Authority for Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse, said his agency was working with police to find the manufacturers and distribution network of the toxic brew.
"Action must be taken and people must take responsibility, police are not doing their job," he said.
"It is a disaster to lose such a high number of people, it is something which could have been stopped."
Kenya has strict laws banning the public consumption of alcohol during much of the day and the sale of alcohol at certain times of day.
Children who follow a parent into an upmarket supermarket are routinely chased out of the wine section by zealous shop assistants.
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However, alcohol laws are rarely enforced in poorer districts and widespread poverty means that illegal vendors have no problem finding clients despite the health risk.
channelnewsasia.com | May 7 06:57 PM
Kenya: Vodka Cures Eight With Brew Poisoning in Machakos
Eight people have been treated for methanol poisoning at the Machakos Level 5 hospital after consuming the killer brew that has claimed the lives of over 80 people and put another 186 in hospital across six counties.
The victims consumed the brew at Kathani village in Mwala Sub county. Machakos county executive in charge of public health and emergency services, Naomi Mutie said that the patients are now in a stable condition after they were treated for the methanol poisoning with alcohol.
"They were given Vodka and when I arrived at the hospital,they were singing and in a jovial mood little did they know some of their friends had died" Mutie said.
Two people including a primary school teacher died after consuming the same brew on Thursday night. One victim died in Kathani village while the primary school teacher passed on while being rushed to Machakos level 5 hospital.
Those affected are said to have consumed the Targeter and Countryman brand. The county government has issued a high alert to all health centers in the county to look out for those brought in as a result of the killer brews.
by Wambua Kavila, m.allafrica.com