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The BBC's Inigo Gilmore in Nairobi
"The home brew drink was probably laced with methanol"
 real 56k

Friday, 17 November, 2000, 13:02 GMT
Kenyan drinkers dice with death
victim
Many of those who drank the home-brew are now blind
Kenyan police in Nairobi say that people are still drinking a lethal home-brew which has already killed 113 despite massive media coverage of the dangers.

A total of 394 others are in hospital after drinking the brew which is believed to have contained methanol.


I started vomiting in the morning and then I realised I could not see

Chang'aa drinker
Police spokesman Peter Kimanthi says that 91 men and 22 women have died so far after drinking the illegal brew, chang'aa which the police believe has been mixed with poisonous methanol in an attempt to make the drink stronger.

More people were expected to die, as many of the victims are in a serious condition and a large number are now blind.

Arrests

Twelve middle-aged women are expected to face a variety of criminal charges including causing death through recklessness and negligence and more arrests are expected.

Chang'aa, known locally as "kill-me-quick" because of its potentially lethal properties, is brewed in hundreds of illegal drinking dens in Nairobi and across Kenya.

relatives await news
More victims are expected to die of poisoning
At about 10 cents a shot, the drink offers a much cheaper way of getting drunk than highly taxed legal beers and spirits.

"There is competition in the business. There are those who like their stuff to be stronger than the rest to attract customers," Peter Kimanthi said.

"Extra ingredients are added to make the stuff more potent."

On Thursday night, police raided a chemicals factory suspected of supplying the brewers with ingredients. "I think there are several batches (of the killer brew). We are trying to find out how many," the police spokesman said.

Residents in a Nairobi suburb awoke on Wednesday morning to find dead bodies lying in the gutter near the local chang'aa den and casualties were still arriving in hospitals on Thursday.

"I started vomiting in the morning and then I realised I could not see - and then I heard the guy we were drinking with was dead," said one patient.

The Daily Nation newspaper reported that one man died as he staggered from the taxi he had hired to take him to the hospital.

Victim being taken to hospital
Poor people drink chang'aa because it is cheap
The paper reported the taxi-driver took the dead man's shoes in lieu of a fare.

"If you take it, the first thing that happens is it compromises your respiratory system... you go blind, and then you die in six to eight hours," said Dr Richard Muga, the ministry of health's director of medical services.

In August 1998 more than 80 people died south of Nairobi after drinking chang'aa laced with methanol.

The brew is often made by widows who depend on the trade for their livelihood.

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See also:

16 Nov 00 | Africa
Kenya's poison brew toll rises
18 Feb 00 | South Asia
Illegal alcohol deaths
09 May 99 | South Asia
Deadly whisky claims 113 lives
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