Two more villagers died immediately after drinking the wine
during the funeral
Seven people died and another 72 were hospitalised after unwittingly drinking poisonous rice wine at a fun-eral ceremony in Pursat province on Wednesday, and the death toll from the tragedy is expected to rise.
Police believe the man whose death the villagers had gathered to mark was the first victim of the noxious “wine”, which provincial doctors suspect was pure methanol mixed with water.
Kompong Por commune chief Thy Phoeun said Mean Savy, 45, was the first person to be poisoned, but residents of Mat Prey village, in Krakor district, mistakenly thought he had died of natural causes and attended a funeral at his house.
“Two more villagers died immed-iately after drinking the rice wine during the funeral, and other vill-agers could not see clearly, so they went for treatment at the hospital,” Thy Phoeun said.
He said three people who had att-ended the funeral died on their way to the provincial hospital.
Those who died after the funeral were named as husband and wife Oun Ot and Ket Song, aged 75 and 65 respectively, Kroch Steung, 51, Sem Cheang, 32, and 23-year-old Tem Kemsan. An as-yet unnamed victim died yesterday evening.
Provincial hospital director Khoy Rida said yesterday it was thought the victims had drunk pure methanol mixed with water.
“We will try our best to save their lives,” he said, warning that more people could die as at least three more patients were in a very serious condition.
Thy Phoeun said a total of 90 lit-res of the “wine” had been bought by the chief of Mat Prey village, who is now in a serious condition in the provincial hospital. It is thought he bought the alcohol from a seller in Pursat town, then sold it on.
One suspect has been arrested in connection with the deaths.
Chhorn Chhean, director of the local police examination department, confirmed yesterday that the drink had been adulterated and warned all villagers to play it safe and not drink rice wine.
In August, at least three people died in Pursat province after drinking poisoned rice wine.
A year ago, 17 people died in Kampong Cham province and another seven in Prey Veng as a result of rice-wine poisoning.