Skip to main content

At least 60 dead from alcohol poisoning in Tripoli, ministry says

By Jomana Karadsheh, CNN
updated 4:18 AM EDT, Wed March 13, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • More than 700 cases of alcohol poisoning have been reported, Libyan News Agency reports
  • Alcohol consumption is banned in Libya, but alcoholic drinks can be found
  • Locally made alcohol is behind this case, the National Security Directorate says

(CNN) -- At least 60 people have died in the Libyan capital after drinking locally made alcohol, the Ministry of Health says, and the National Security Directorate of Tripoli said Tuesday it is launching an investigation.

According to the Libyan News Agency, there were 709 other cases of alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol sale and consumption is prohibited in Libya, a conservative Muslim nation, but smuggled alcoholic drinks can be found, in addition to homemade alcohol locally known as "bokha."

The National Security Directorate said this large-scale poisoning was caused by such locally made alcohol.

A medical source in Tripoli who has seen some of the patients told CNN their symptoms indicated methanol poisoning. Methanol overdose symptoms include breathing problems, blindness, comas, seizures and death.

Officials say the first case was reported in the capital on Thursday, and over the following days Tripoli Central Hospital received a large number of people showing signs of alcohol poisoning. Some cases had to be transferred to other hospitals.

Those affected ranged in age from 16 to 55, the head of the internal medicine department at the hospital, Dr. Massoud al-Azzabi, told the state news agency on Monday. Some lost their eyesight, and some of the others were put on dialysis machines or respirators, he said.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Tripoli National Security Directorate announced the formation of a committee of five officers to oversee the investigation into the alcohol poisoning, which some reports call the worst ever in Libya.

The directorate said police stations in the city have started to record the cases and the Criminal Investigations unit is investigating.

A security task force that includes a number of security and revolutionary forces has been formed and is ready to raid suspected bootlegger hideouts upon orders from the government, according to the state news agency.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:08 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
The possibility of pockets of air remaining within the hull of the sunken South Korean ferry offers hope to rescuers -- and relatives -- say experts.
updated 9:31 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Despite hundreds still missing after the sinking of a South Korean ferry, reports of text messages keep hope alive that there may be survivors yet.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests or political reform are still censored in China.
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
It's hard not to be nervous, standing outside the Ebola isolation wards.
updated 5:31 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Russia's propaganda worse now than at height of Cold War, says Leon Aron, director of Russian studies at AEI.
Sanctions imposed against Russia are working as a deterrent, President Barack Obama and other White House senior administration officials said.
updated 12:40 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
A lack of progress in the search for MH370 is angering the families of victims.
updated 5:16 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Officials are launching their next option: an underwater vehicle to scan the ocean floor.
updated 11:09 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
The searches for the Titanic and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 share common techniques.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
updated 11:35 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
This year's Pyongyang marathon was open to foreign amateurs.
updated 8:30 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
updated 1:53 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
How are police preparing for this year's 26.2-mile marathon, which takes place Monday?
updated 1:02 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Katrina Karkazis
Romance is hard, for anyone. For people with intersex traits, love poses unique challenges.
updated 8:38 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Suisse's Belinda Bencic returns the ball to France's Alize Cornet during the second match of the Fed Cup first round tennis tie France vs Switzerland on February 8, 2014 at the Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
It's no easy matter becoming a world class tennis player. It's even harder when everyone (really -- everyone) is calling you the "new Martina Hingis".
updated 5:26 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
The "kill switch," a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015.
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT