By MIRIAM ZARRIGA
THE Ethanol binge drinking death toll in Eastern Highlands’ Kainantu on Sept 10 has shot up to 16 with five newly reported deaths last week.
To date, three of some 240 people who drank Methanol Ethanol Mix have gone blind. They consumed the mix after Ethanol was siphoned from five drums at the Coffee Institute Corporation (CIC) centre in Aiyura.
The latest deaths were reported on Tuesday, Kainantu Rural Hospital acting chief medical administrator Dr Enename Susuke said.
Susuke in an interview with The National said a total of 240 people sought medical treatment at the hospital after falling ill from consuming Ethanol.
“We managed to get everyone to recover after the victims were advised to drink beer and other beverages to counteract the toxic effects of Ethanol.” he added.
Of the 16 deaths, nine were reported in Kainantu Hospital, three from Obura-Wonenara, three in Goroka Hospital and one in Madang’s Modilon Hospital.
Susuke said the Madang case was reported because the man who died was a bus driver.
“He allegedly drank the Ethanol in Aiyura, before driving to Madang where he was rushed to the hospital,” he said.
“However he died from organ injuries due to Ethanol. Since last week, no one has come in with medical conditions related to Ethanol drinking.
“The media and social media have been helpful in assisting with the awareness drive the hospital took to ensure people were aware of what they were drinking.”
In relation to reports of people going blind, Susuke said the injuries sustained varies from person to person.
“However, those who came in of being visually impaired felt better after drinking beer and vodka to counter the toxic effects of Ethanol.
“Those who became blind, little could be done.
“We only had three cases of blindness that we could not do much (to reverse the effects),” he added.
However, Susuke said that the reports of blindness could be higher than three because many were going straight to the Goroka Hospital.
“Those people who have come across Ethanol must not drink it. It is dangerous,” he added.
Susuke had advised the people to refrain from drinking any alcohol sold on the streets and villages, especially those that originated from Aiyura.
Commander Chief Supt Michael Welly told The National that the case was still under investigations with emphasis on ensuring that the people were aware of “what they are drinking”.
By MIRIAM ZARRIGA