Capital FM (Nairobi)

6 May 2014

Kenya: 57 Dead as Illicit Brew Mystery Deepens

Photo: Reuben Githinji/The Star
Containers of the illicit brew.

Nairobi — The number of people who have died after consuming illicit brew rose to 57 on Tuesday, with more deaths being reported in Embu and other parts of the country.

Fifteen of those admitted to the Embu District Hospital died overnight on Monday, bringing the total death toll in the county to 25 while six deaths were reported in Kitui and Makueni each, another nine in Limuru and 11 in Kiambu.

"It is a disaster to us because most of these people are related," one Embu resident told Capital FM News.

Twenty others remained admitted in Limuru on Tuesday as samples of the illicit brew from the various counties were taken to the government chemist for testing.

"We haven't established that all of them died from the same illicit brew as Embu. What we know is that the one that killed people in Makueni and Kitui were bought from a licensed bar and we are yet to pinpoint where the Kiambu one originated from," Police Spokesperson Zipporah Mboroki told Capital FM News.

And as the death toll rose, Embu County Commissioner Amos Gathecha interdicted a chief and an assistant over the disaster.

The Chairman of the National Authority for Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) John Mututho however called for more drastic action.

"It is not enough. These people died because the security agents were not doing their jobs. And this was a big operation if it the brew was transported across county borders. It cannot be business as usual," he said.

The woman suspected of having sold the illicit brew dubbed kathavuria in the Embu slum of Shauri Yako was arrested by police on Monday and her husband is believed to be among the dead.

Those who consumed and survived the illicit brew in Embu told Capital FM News on Monday that among the complications they experienced, was trouble seeing.

"You hardly realised you were going blind because we started seeing darkness, and I thought it was getting late," one victim said.

The use of industrial alcohol in illicit brews is what usually causes blindness as when it's ingested in large enough quantities, it damages the optic nerve.

Deaths caused by illicit brews are not new phenomena among low-income groups but the death toll in the latest incident is among the highest ever reported in the country.

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