Homemade alcohol drinking kills more than 50 in Libya

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The number of people who have died in Libya after drinking homemade alcohol rose to 51, most of them in the capital Tripoli, with more than 300 others suffering from alcohol poisoning, the health ministry said on Monday.

The consumption and sale of alcohol is banned in the North African country, even though it is available on the black market.

In a statement on its website, the ministry said 38 people had died in Tripoli and another 13 had died while on their way to Tunisia for treatment.

“There have been 378 cases of alcohol poisoning so far,” the ministry said, adding the illegal concoction is believed to have contained methanol. The deaths were among that figure.

It gave no further details about the alcohol or its source.

Tripoli medical center’s health chief Youssef al-Wafi said on Sunday that “preliminary tests revealed the symptoms of poisoning from the consumption of homemade alcohol containing methanol.”

Wafi said the health risks included kidney failure, blindness, seizures and possible death, with those thought to have consumed the toxic drink ranging in age from 19 to 50.

With its long porous borders, Libya has seen a significant increase in drug and alcohol trafficking since the 2011 war that ousted dictator Muammar Qaddafi.