71 Dead, Nearly 200 Sickened After Drinking Homemade Beer in Mozambique

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Mozambican men load on January 11, 2015 coffins of victims of alcohol poisoning onto a pickup truck at the Chitima health center in Tete province. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

A homemade alcoholic drink has reportedly killed 71 people and sickened nearly 200 others in a village in Mozambique.

The fatal victims ranged in ages from 18 to 60, state-run Mozambique Radio said. More than three dozen people remained hospitalized Tuesday, the outlet said.

A group of people returning from a funeral stopped off late Friday in an area where customers can buy a popular home brew — made from sorghum, bran corn and sugar, and known as Phombe — according to state-run Radio Mozambique.

By Saturday morning, dead bodies of those who drank the Phombe began arriving at a hospital, the radio station reported, citing Paula Bernardo, a health official in the district of Cahora Bassa.

“As we prepared to determine the cause of death, many more people began to arrive with diarrhea and other muscle aches,” Bernardo said. “Then many dead bodies from several neighborhoods were brought in, which aroused our attention.”

Authorities are still trying to figure out what contaminated the batch of Phombe that has poisoned so many people in the village of Chitima. Samples taken from a 210-liter (56-gallon) drum of the brew have been sent to a national laboratory for tests, Radio Mozambique reported.

Most of the bodies have been buried in a cemetery in Chitima after a mass led by a bishop, the radio station said.

A mass funeral was carried out because the morgue of the local hospital was too small to accommodate all the bodies and the situation was being made worse by the intense heat in the region, the report said.

Provincial officials have descended on the village and the national health minister was reported to be heading there with a group of doctors to bolster the medical teams already on the ground.

“We are receiving support from all corners,” said Bernado, listing coffins and medicine among the key aid coming from authorities and nongovernmental groups.

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