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Death Toll Mounts in Tainted Rice Wine Tragedy

Four Foreigners Among at Least 25 Dead Due to Methanol Poisoning of Arak Rice Wine.

Bali News:
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As reported on, contaminated local rice wine or, by its local name, "arak" has been linked to a number of deaths and scores of disabling injuries. [See: When an 'Arak Attack' Proves Fatal]

The methanol-laced rice wine is now, according to the Jakarta Post, linked to at least 25 deaths, including four foreigners. The four foreign nationals - a Brit (2), American (1) and Dutch citizen (1) reportedly imbibed methanol-tainted arak in Bali or on the nearby island resort of Gili Terawangan. Post-mortem medical tests performed at Bali Sanglah General Hospital have confirmed the presence of methanol and a range of medical conditions consistent with methanol poisoning, including blood clots to the brain, lesions on mucus membranes and swelling of internal organs.

Among the more critically affected survivors of the methanol poisoning are cases of blindness, nerve damage and kidney failure.

Balinese police have arrested two Balinese men in connection with the case - the owner of the distillery in the sub-district of Dalung, Made Rai Suweca, and one of his employees, I Putu Suastama.

Governor's Reaction

In a statement issued by Bali's Governor, the island's Chief Executive describes the growing list of injured and dead from the consumption of illegal arak as tragic disaster. The governor's office has advised the public to exercise great caution in the consumption of any alcoholic beverage, using only those products approved and registered with the Department of Health.

Hotel and Restaurant Association Urges Caution

The Bali chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) have also issued a warning to avoid illegally produced alcohol.

The Secretary of PHRI-Bali, Ferry Markus, said visitors to Bali must be reminded not to purchase and consume illegally produced arak. Markus also expressed concern that a series of raids being conducted by customs officials on local hotels and restaurants in which internationally branded alcohol is being confiscated due to counterfeit import stamps may be inadvertently contributing to the consumption of illegally produced local alcohol containing methanol.

Police Question Motive for Poisoning confirms the presence of methanol in blood tests conducted on a number of arak-drinking victims. Tens of bottles of illegal arak confiscated by police have tested positive for extremely high levels of methanol, measuring 30% or more. also quotes the Head of the Forensic Laboratory of the Bali Police, Muhidin, as saying there were three possible motives for the current contamination: ignorance on the part of the seller, purposeful contamination to obtain higher profits, and sabotage by a business competitor.

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