Malaysian police are investigating alcohol poisoning cases that have killed at least 21 people. Dozens of more people were hospitalized, most of them Asian citizens.
Homemade cheap liquor is favored by poor overseas workers in Malaysia. Malaysia, which is predominantly Muslim and imposes a high tax on alcohol.
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said 57 cases of methanol poisoning were reported in Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding state of Selangor. "The number of cases is expected to increase because many sufferers come for treatment," he told a news conference in the government capital, Putrajaya, Wednesday (9/19).
Methanol, an alcoholic compound to make fake liquor, is harmless in small amounts but deadly in large quantities. Five Malaysians are affected, while the rest are people from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nepal.
Authorities tested several types of alcoholic beverages in order to find several samples containing more methanol than allowed. "We are very concerned because it continues. People choose cheap alcoholic drinks," said Dzulkefly.
Selangor Police Chief Mazlan Mansor said police arrested seven people in raids in 12 places and confiscated nearly 3,000 bottles and cans of whiskey and beer, in an effort to find contaminated drinks and control the outbreak. The police investigate the death as a murder, which is worthy of punishment, which results in a prison term of up to 10 years, a fine, or both.
In neighboring countries, Indonesia, also a predominantly Muslim country, more than 50 people were killed in April after drinking alcohol mixed with ingredients such as mosquito repellents.