At least 69 people who drank homemade beer contaminated with crocodile bile have now been confirmed dead by the Mozambique health authorities. The people were served the traditional millet based brew called pombe at the funeral of a newborn baby over the weekend. In addition to that, 169 have been admitted to various hospitals in the northeastern Tete province. The mother of the dead child who brewed the beer was among those reported dead.
Pombe is a traditional Mozambican beer made from millet or corn flour. Blood samples of the affected people and some leftover pombe have been sent to the capital Maputo to be tested, said provincial health director Carle Mosse.
“As we prepared to determine the cause of death of people we began to receive a lot of people with diarrhea and other muscle aches. After that we began to receive dead bodies from several neighborhoods,” Paula Bernardo, a local health official in the country, told a state-run radio station in Mozambique.
Officials investigating into the case now believe that the entire brew was not contaminated, since the mourners who consumed it early in the morning have not showed any signs of illness while those who consumed it later in the afternoon fell ill. That goes to suggest that the brew probably got contaminated during the course of the day.
In an interview with Radio Mozambique, Alex Albertini, District health official, said that poisoning by crocodile bile was common in the area.
The health director, Mosse expressed fears about the situation getting worse since the region did not have the required infrastructure to deal with disasters of this magnitude.
While the government has declared a three day state mourning beginning Monday, the leader of the opposition party, Afonso Dhlakama, also showed his solidarity for the next of those deceased by postponing a poltical rally and reaching the grief-stricken town to meet the victims’ families.
It has not yet been confirmed that crocodile bile was the cause behind the deaths. Infact, experts are not even sure as to whether the bile of the crocodile is poisonous at all. The exact cause will be known only after reports from Maputo come in.