Binge drinking: 6 dead

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SIX people died and more than 150 are lying in Kainantu Rural Hospital beds after drinking Methanol Ethanol Mix from Friday to Monday, Eastern Highlands commander Chief Supt Michael Welly says.
“The dead are five men and a woman. One was an Aiyura Aircraft Maintenance Engineering School student and the rest were villagers from around Obura-Wonenara’s Aiyura.
“They had a binge drinking after Ethanol was siphoned from leaked drums at the Coffee Institute Corporation (CIC) on Friday.
“The hospital started admitting the sick from 9pm on Monday,” he added.
A staff told The National that the hospital was inundated with patients and chaotic.
Chief Supt Welly said 80 drums of Ethanol that had been cleared by Customs at the Lae Wharf were transported to the CIC centre on Friday. “During the transportation, several drums were pierced in transit, believed to be due to the bad road conditions.
“Upon arrival at the CIC yard and while waiting for the drums to be unloaded by a front-end loader from the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), the security guards on shift duty used their knives to enlarge (the) holes on the drums.
“(They) collected the Ethanol into any containers they could find and indulged in a drinking spree.
“They also distributed the alcohol to villages within Aiyura Valley and as far as Kainantu. Drinking parties popped up everywhere on Friday afternoon and continued over the weekend to Monday when the drinkers started falling sick at 11am.
“Upon receiving the initial report, police found five of the 80 drums of Ethanol either emptied or partially emptied.
“We have seized the five drums for evidence and investigation.
“We also issued an immediate notification to the health clinic in SIL and the hospital,” he added.
Chief Supt Welly said announcements were made at the villages calling on villagers to immediately cease all consumption of the Ethanol and report to the nearest health facilities for medical help and for the identity of the “Ethanol suppliers” to be established.
He said the “suppliers” had gone into hiding following police enquiries.
Attempts to get comments from Health Minister Jelta Wong and Health Department secretary Dr Osborne Liko on whether emergency teams would be sent to support the overwhelmed Kainantu hospital were unsuccessful.

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