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Indonesia

80 people dead after drinking toxic bootleg booze in Indonesia

Police have detained at least 12 men in the capital, Jakarta, and a neighbouring province on suspicion of making and selling the liquor

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 April, 2018, 4:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 April, 2018, 9:07pm

Indonesian authorities said more people have died from toxic bootleg liquor, raising the toll this month to nearly 80 and highlighting how attempts to curb legal alcohol appear to have tragically backfired.

West Java police spokesman Trunoyudo Wisnu Andiko said Tuesday that deaths from three locations in the province now total 45.

In Cicalengka, near the provincial capital of Bandung, nearly 100 people were hospitalised. Another 31 died earlier in the month in Jakarta and satellite cities.

High taxes on alcohol have spawned a black market for booze among the poor in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, where drinking alcohol is discouraged but not illegal under civil law.

In 2015, the country banned sales of alcohol from tens of thousands of mini-marts and other small stores.

Police have detained at least 12 men in the capital, Jakarta, and a neighbouring province on suspicion of making and selling the liquor.

It was not clear if the victims had been poisoned by the formation of deadly methanol in the drink, or by an ingredient, one of which was known to be insect repellent, police said.

A man in West Java mixed mosquito repellent into his home-made concoction.

“He mixed (pure alcohol) with ginseng, cough medicine and mosquito repellent,” local police chief Agung Budi Maryoto told a press conference Monday.

In another case, a vendor who has been arrested admitted he had mixed pure alcohol with Coca-Cola and an energy drink, police said.

Indonesia’s local spirits: alcohol’s history in the world’s largest Muslim nation 

Police said they are chasing other sellers and distributors of home-brew.

“We believe there is a big distributor behind this case,” East Jakarta police chief Tony Surya Putra said at the weekend.

Media broadcast pictures of grieving families waiting to claim the bodies of loved ones at hospital morgues in several cities.

Deaths from such consumption are reported frequently, but the latest toll is among the highest in recent years. In 2016, 36 people died after drinking locally made liquor, according to media.

Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse