Libyan poisoned alcohol death toll rises to 79

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The top security official in Libya’s capital said Tuesday 79 people have died over the past four days from drinking homemade alcohol, suspected of containing poisonous methanol.

Colonel Mahmoud al-Sharif, security chief in Tripoli, said authorities are searching for two people believed to be involved in making the poisonous drinks. He said authorities are looking into whether it was the methanol or bad fermentation that caused the large number of victims.

He said at least seven were found dead in their bed after consuming the bad liquor. The victims began to arrive to hospitals on March 7, he said. They included 10 women, he said.

Al-Sharif raised the death toll from the one earlier reported by the health minister Nouri Doghman, who said 60 people died.

Doghman said that some of those who survived were blinded, and others went into comas or suffered kidney failure. He pointed to delayed relief efforts as contributing to the increasing toll. On Monday, 51 were reported dead.

He said the dead range in age from 19 to 50 years old, and that Algerians and Tunisians were among them.

The sale and consumption of alcohol is banned in the conservative North African country. Like illegal drugs elsewhere, some Libyans turn to black market dealers to buy alcohol, which is often cooked in homes or deserted farms.

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