About 69 people have died and 196 have been hospitalized after drinking homemade beer at a funeral on Friday in the village of Chitima, Mozambique.
Consuming homemade beer at funerals is a tradition in the country; but on Friday after mourning the loss of a newborn baby in the northeastern Tete province in central Mozambique, victims experienced symptoms of poisoning from the “pombe.”
Pombe is made with corn or millet flour and brewed for two days.
“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,” health director Paula Bernardo told Radio Mozambique, according to Reuters.
The mother of the deceased newborn also reportedly drank the brew and died this weekend. It is believed that someone poisoned the batch with crocodile bile. The bile from the crocodile is believed to be lethal. In some African cultures when a crocodile is killed it must be buried publicly, so no one can steal the gallbladder and use the bile for sinister reasons.
Those who are ailing are experiencing diarrhea and muscle pain, symptoms associated with poisoning, as well as many other ailments.
Forensic experts took samples from the drum, blood, and beer and sent them to the capital Maputo to be tested, said provincial health director Carle Mosse. But there is no mention of testing for animal’s bile or DNA.
Currently, authorities have no leads, and it’s possible that the situation may worsen in the region as there is a lack of resources to treat those who are ailing from the poisoning.
Donations are being collected for the surviving family members.
S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, http://Facebook.com/TheReporterandTheGirl and visit her website at http://www.TheReporterandTheGirl.com