Friday, June 14, 2024
World News

8 dead, dozens hospitalized after drinking bootleg alcohol in Morocco

Eight people in Morocco have died and dozens of others were hospitalized after drinking homemade liquor, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

“Serious complications from poisoning” led to the death of eight people in the town of Sidi Allal Tazi, according to the regional health directorate. Sidi Allal Tazi is about 260 miles away from the coastal city of Marrakech. 

More than 100 people in the town, which has a population of just over 3,100 people, suffered from alcohol poisoning between Monday and Wednesday from consuming methanol, health officials said in a statement. Eighty-one people are still being monitored.

Authorities said two suspects, aged 21 and 41, had been identified as those responsible for the bootleg alcohol and were among those hospitalized.

Methanol is a toxic form of alcohol that is used industrially as a solvent, pesticide or an alternative source of fuel. It is not used in the production of alcohol sold for human consumption, CBS News previously reported

According to the Methanol Institute, a global trade association, “unscrupulous enterprises or individual” sometimes deliberately add methanol to alcoholic drinks as a cheaper alternative to safe and consumable ethanol, CBS News previously reported. The institute also says that poisoning can occur through the improper brewing of homemade alcohol. Symptoms of methanol poisoning include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulty, blindness, blurred vision, seizures and comas, according to the institute, and drinking just 0.8 ounces of the substance can be fatal.

Similar incidents have been reported around the globe. In 2022, 21 teenagers died in a South Africa tavern after consuming alcohol that was suspected to include methanol. Methanol-tainted drinks also killed over 50 people in Peru that same year.

Homemade alcohol caused seven deaths in central Morocco’s Meknes last year and 19 deaths in the northern city Ksar El Kebir in 2022.

Moroccan law technically prohibits the sale of alcohol to Muslims, who make up 99% of the country’s population, but it can easily be found in bars, restaurants or even in licensed stores which offer it for sale behind opaque windows and thick curtains.

Other parts of the world that ban alcohol have seen large-scale alcohol poisonings. In India’s Bihar state, where the manufacturing, sale and consumption of liquor is prohibited, 30 people died after consuming tainted alcohol sold without authorization in 2022. Another 28 deaths were recorded in the country’s Gujarat state, which also forbids liquor, the same year. In 2020, over 100 people died in the country after drinking tainted liquor.