Poisoned Alcohol Death Toll in Libya Nears 100, Fear Spreads

Reports from North Africa indicate that nearly 80 people have died in recent days after consuming illegal alcohol that was thought to contain methanol.

In Libya's capital of Tripoli, 79 people have died over the past four days from drinking homemade alcohol that is suspected of containing the poisonous agent.

Colonel Mahmoud al-Sharif, the top security official in Libya, revealed that authorities were actively searching for those thought responsible for manufacturing and selling the homemade brew.

Alcohol is illegal in the strict Islamic country, and investigators were trying to determine if the poisonous methanol was added on purpose or if it was the result of poor manufacturing.

Al-Sharif had said that more than 700 people have been sickened by the bad brew, and that 78 people have died thus far.

"The number of deaths due to the consumption of homemade alcohol has grown, with 22 new cases bringing the total to 79," ministry spokesman Amar Mohammad Amar told AFP, adding that "the number of people poisoned has reached over 700."

"Preliminary tests revealed the symptoms of poisoning from the consumption of homemade alcohol containing methanol," Tripoli medical center's health chief, Yousuf Al Wafi, said on Sunday.

Reports state that some of those who were sickened by the brew and survived had developed blindnes,s while others experienced kidney failure or even went into comas.

Amar revealed that the poisonous alcohol has killed people ranging in age from 19 to 50 years old, adding that both Algerians and Tunisians were among the dead, which could mean that the illegal alcohol is being transported outside of the country.

Even though the sale and consumption of alcohol is banned in the radically conservative nation, some in the country have turned to the black market to buy alcohol, which is thought to be cooked in private homes or in deserted farms.