Poison drinks kill 56 in five counties as more than 70 in hospital
Fifty six people died and more than 70 others were hospitalised after drinking toxic brews in four different incidents in Embu, Kiambu, Kitui, Makueni and Murang’a counties.
In Embu County, the death toll from the lethal brew in Shauri Yako slums rose to 25 after 11 more died yesterday. Fourteen others had died on Monday.
About 40 survivors were admitted to Embu Level Five Hospital with six of them having lost their eyesight and others complaining of stomach ache, dry mouths and headaches.
Dr Gerald Ndiritu, the hospital’s medical superintendent, said doctors were yet to establish the exact cause of the deaths but they had sent blood samples to the Government Chemist for analysis.
“What we can say for now is that they are suffering from acute poisoning. We can’t tell the nature of the poisoning for now,” he said.
In Kitui County, six people died and 19 others were treated and discharged after consuming an illicit brew at a remote village in Ikutha district.
The incident happened at 9pm on Monday. Among the dead were the bar owner and three primary school teachers.
Ikutha medical officer of health Lucia Jonah said seven people were admitted in critical condition while 19 were treated at a nearby dispensary and discharged after their conditions stabilised.
“The survivors we attended to complained of stomach pains but they are lucky as none of them lost their eyesight,” Ms Jonah said.
The head of police in Ikutha district, Mr Paul Kipkorir, said detectives had collected samples of the killer brew known locally as “Countryman”, which was packaged in small plastic containers. The sample had been sent to the Government Chemist for analysis.
He, however, said the police were yet to establish the source of the brew because the owner of the bar had also died.
“We haven’t made any arrests so far. We’re concerned more with saving lives first but unfortunately the person who procured the brew is among the dead,” he said in a telephone interview.
In Kiambu, 11 people, among them three members of the same family, died after consuming a highly toxic illicit brew.
Among the dead were three relatives of Kiambaa member of Parliament Paul Koinange identified as Mr Gatu Njeri, and his nephews Daniel Mungai and Harrison Karanja.
About 30 people are believed to have consumed the liquor at Kiawamwaki farm in Tigoni.
Some of those who died yesterday had taken the brew on Sunday. Soon after, they started complaining of blurred vision and shortness of breath before finally succumbing. Other victims drunk the brew on Monday.
Doctors at the Nazareth Hospital where survivors were taken for treatment said they had not established the kind of drink the patients had taken.
Kiambu County Commissioner Esther Maina said the brew could be containing methanol but added that police also suspect the drink could have been poisoned by a rival chang’aa seller.
She said initial investigations showed the drink had been hidden in the bush and a rival could have laced it with poison.
In Makueni, 12 people died in Kitise Ward, after consuming another potent brew.
Among the dead were two teachers in different locations in the ward.
Five people died in Kitise, four in Kithuke and three in Kanzokea villages after they consumed the brew at a local den on Sunday night.
The County Director of Health, Dr David Kiuluku, said that the Makueni Level Four Hospital had received six bodies while three more were at the villages. Another died while undergoing treatment in the same hospital.
Dr Kiuluku said the victims were suspected to have consumed liquor laced with methanol. Among those who died in the Makueni incident were two teachers.
Two people were also reported to have died in Murang’a and six others in Kitui, all after consuming lethal brews.
In Embu, Dr Ndiritu identified the dead as five women and 20 men. Among them was the husband of the seller.
The youngest survivor was a 16-year old student at Urban Day Secondary School in Embu Town while the oldest was a woman in her late 50s.
‘Brew can light a fire if undiluted’
The first victims — two young men — were found dead in their house on Monday at midday.
“We start drinking early in the morning even early as 5am,” said 52-year-old Jane Muthoni.
According to her, security officers were aware of the presence of illegal brews in the slum.
“I only took a glass worth Sh70, it is something like spirit and you cannot consume it unless you dilute it, the concoction can light a fire when in undiluted form,” she said.