PHNOM PENH: At least 13 villagers have died and more than 200 others hospitalised after drinking what is suspected to be tainted water from a canal in Kratie province, a Cambodian official said on Monday (May 7).
As of Monday, a total of 280 people, including 162 women and 69 children, have been affected and 234 have been hospitalised since the first deaths on Thursday, said Pen Lynat, Kratie provincial deputy governor.
Of the 13 deaths, eight were women and most of them were of old age, said Lynat. “We are shocked to see our people become like this. We are very sorry to see this case,” said Lynat.
Local authorities warned villagers to take extra care of their hygiene and to not use water from the canals and streams in the area.
Lynat said: “We also distributed water to them for drinking and daily use. We will continue to distribute the water to them till we have a real sample showing that this water from the streams can be used.”
The health ministry's statement on Monday said that although there were initially suspicions that most of the deceased drank improperly produced rice wine, it was found that some of them did not drink the wine but used water from the Prek Te canal.
Initial testing on rice wine samples showed high levels of methanol, which can be very toxic, while water samples from the Prek Te canal had higher levels of chromium and nitrate than normal, according to a Facebook post by Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith.
Meanwhile, a medical team has been sent to the site to treat victims, and to investigate and temporarily stop rice wine production, said a spokesman for the health ministry.
From 2015 to 2017, there were 389 cases of rice wine poisoning which caused 50 deaths in Mondulkiri, Tbong Khmum, Kratie and Kampong Chhnang provinces, said the ministry.