Alcohol poisoning kills 51 in Libya

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At least 51 people have died after drinking tainted homemade alcohol in Tripoli, Libyan health officials say.

They say 378 have been taken to the capital's hospitals since Saturday, and the number may rise further.

A hospital official told the BBC the deaths occurred from methanol poisoning and that many patients were undergoing kidney dialysis for treatment.

The consumption and sale of alcohol is illegal in Libya, but it is available on the black market.

Premises surrounded

The Libyan health officials say 38 people have now died in Tripoli hospitals and another 13 as they were travelling to neighbouring Tunisia for treatment.

A state of emergency has been declared in the capital's hospitals.

The alcohol in question is a cheap local brew known as Bokha. It is distilled from various fruits like figs, dates or grapes.

But industrial spirits - like methanol - are sometimes used to increase the potency of the drink, the BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli reports.

Health risks after drinking methanol include kidney failure, blindness, seizures and death.

Interior ministry official Hussein al-Amry told the BBC that special units had surrounded locations where the homemade alcohol was thought to have been brewed.

He added that the ministry was prepared to use force if the owners did not comply with an order to vacate the premises.

Alcohol is also smuggled into Libya from Tunisia, Algeria and Malta.

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