3 Cambodian villagers die, 44 others hospitalised after drinking tainted rice wine

PHNOM PENH (XINHUA) - Three Cambodian villagers have died and 44 others have been hospitalised in Kratie province after drinking locally made rice wine which was suspected to contain "high levels of methanol", police and health officials said on Friday (Oct 19).

"Two men and a woman died on Thursday, and 44 others have been subsequently admitted to the Kratie Provincial Referral Hospital after they consumed contaminated rice wine," Sambou district police chief Bun Chhoeun told Xinhua.

The incident took place in the district's Damre village late on Wednesday afternoon, after villagers drank the wine following a rice harvest.

"The victims have the same symptoms: dizziness, eye irritation, nausea, and breathing difficulty," he said.

According to chief Bun Chhoeun, a rice wine producer in the village was detained for questing over the tragedy and a wine sample was collected for examination.

Mr Ly Sovann, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, confirmed the incident, saying that health officials had been sent to the village and victims had been rushed to hospital for medical treatment.

"Based on the symptoms, we initially conclude that they fell ill and died of having rice wine containing high-levels of methanol," he told Xinhua. "A sample of the suspected wine has been taken for a test."

Meanwhile, the spokesman called on people not to drink wine that has "no clear source", or was produced without proper techniques.

Rice wine is popular in rural areas in Cambodia due to its cheap price.

Checks on food are rare in the South-east Asian nation, where safety regulations are lax.

In May, methanol-laced rice wine and contaminated water left 13 people dead and nearly 300 others hospitalised in Kratie province.

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