Kenyan Home-Brewed Alcohol Kills 70 People as Hundreds Hurt

At least 70 people died in Kenya after consuming a toxic batch of home-brewed alcohol and hundreds have been admitted to local hospitals suffering injuries including blindness, the government said.

Authorities in five Kenyan counties, including Nairobi where the capital is situated, are investigating the source of the illicit liquor that was sold in slum areas earlier this week, police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi said in a phone interview today. Two people have been arrested for selling the liquor, the Interior Ministry said in an e-mailed statement.

“The government takes this opportunity to caution the public to avoid taking illicit liquor because there are unscrupulous brewers out there who lace their drinks with deadly chemicals in pursuit of profit,” the ministry said.

In 2000, at least 113 people in Nairobi’s slums died and another 394 people were hospitalized after drinking illegal alcohol. About 4 million Kenyans, more than 13 percent of the population in East Africa’s biggest economy, use alcohol and 2.2 million of them are addicted to it, according to John Mututho, head of the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Kenyan law provides for a five-year jail term or a penalty of as much as 10 million shillings ($115,000) for people convicted of contaminating alcoholic drinks.

Alcoholism is partly blamed for road accidents in Kenya that killed at least 1,731 people and injured more than 12,000 last year, according to the Transport Ministry.

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