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Three people have died after consuming ethyl alcohol on the 3rd and 9th of this month in the village of Mutua at the administrative post of Mafambisse, Dondo district, Sofala.
The deceased worked on a farm belonging to Pedro José in the 25 de Setembro neighbourhood. José is being held in police cells in Dondo on poisoning charges.
It is assumed that the three drank ethyl alcohol given by José in exchange for services, which José has admitted, but he claims that the victims themselves convinced him that the product would be rendered suitable for human consumption if a little water was added.
“I always have alcohol on my farm for cleaning. One day, I bought alcohol to eliminate bacteria after cutting my hair. One of the workers, seeing me with a half-litre bottle of alcohol, convinced me that it was good for consumption if you added a bit of water,” he said.
He added: “The first time, no-one died. But this time, unfortunately, alcohol caused the death of two people. I do not know the cause of death of the third person,” he said.
The secretary of the September 25 neighbourhood, Francisco Luis, said that two of the three people died on the same day, but all three displayed the same symptoms before dying.
Luís explained that as soon as he learned of the incident, he informed the police, who went to the place to investigate the origin of the alcohol.
“It was unfortunate. The neighbourhood panicked at what had happened. There were three deaths under identical circumstances, so we informed the police, who went to the site to establish the facts and arrested the owner of the farm and an employee,” he said.
The director of the Dondo Health Centre, Arlindo Henriques Majongonhe, explained that ethyl alcohol is used as a disinfectant for surgical and hospital equipment but when consumed causes liver damage and immediate death.
“It is extremely dangerous, and exclusively for Ministry of Health use. It is odd that it fell into other hands. Health units receive it with a content of 90 percent alcohol and technicians dilute it to 70 percent to be used as a disinfectant for surgical materials and wounds.”
Carlitos Bernardo, a relative of one of the victims, told the Diário de Moçambique that on the fateful day his relative complained of stomach aches.
“It was strange, the simultaneous death of two friends who worked together. They had the same symptoms on the same night. They were doing odd jobs in Pedro’s farm in exchange for drinks,” he said.
Felizardo João, one of the farm’s permanent workers and also detained in connection with the case, said this was the first time that deaths from intoxication had occurred.
“I got five litres of alcohol from my boss. From this I took two litres to pay the people for the cleaning. Unfortunately, the next day I received information that the two people I gave the drink to had died,” he said.
Sofala police spokesman Daniel Macuácua said that the deaths of the three people in the same week were the result of alcoholic intoxication.
“We became aware of the case after reports of the existence of the two corpses of individuals who provided seasonal services on one of the farms. Preliminary investigations revealed that the deaths were due to the consumption of ethyl alcohol,” he said.
One of the deceased was buried in his home province of Inhambane, and the other two in Mutua.
By Alberto Cassimo