MAPUTO, Mozambique – Mozambique’s government declared three days of mourning starting Monday after 69 people died from drinking contaminated traditional beer at a funeral over the weekend.
Northeast Tete province Health, Women and Social Welfare Director Paula Bernardo said Monday that 196 others have been admitted to hospitals there.
“People flocked to the hospital, suffering from diarrhea and muscle pain,” Bernardo told Radio Mozambique. “Then bodies from various neighborhoods were brought to the hospital, and this alerted us.”
The government issued a statement Sunday night to declare the three days of mourning. District health officials on Sunday evening had put the death toll at 56, with 49 hospitalized.
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Pombe, a traditional Mozambican beer, is made from millet or corn flour. The exact source of the contamination is still unknown, but authorities believe the drink was poisoned with crocodile bile during the course of a funeral on Saturday.
Police are investigating the incident.
Blood and traditional beer samples were sent to the capital Maputo to be tested, said provincial health director Carle Mosse.
“We are waiting for the results of the tests of the samples being done at Maputo Central Hospital so that we can identify the type of the product put into the drink,” said Mosse.
Authorities are collecting clothing, food and coffins for the bereaved families.