Poisoned Arak Kills 25, Including Four Foreigners


BADUNG ~ The number of deaths from arak laced with methanol has risen to 25, including English, American, Dutch and Irish nationals, officials said.

Around 20 people are still being treated in hospital after drinking the brew, which in some cases also had arsenic and cyanide added to it, it has emerged.

In response to the deaths, which occurred in Bali and neighbouring Lombok, the Bali Hotel and Restaurant Association, or PHRI, issued a warning to tourists not to drink arak, bottled or otherwise.

“We want to protect tourists by distributing information. Many tourists don’t know the dangers of drinking arak in stalls or cafes,” secretary of PHRI Ferry Markus said.

Police, meanwhile, began an island-wide crackdown this week on the production, sale and consumption of unlicensed arak, a clear spirit that is distilled from rice.

Karangasem Police spokesman Syamsul Hayat said three arak distributors had been arrested in Sidemen and another two in Telaga Tawang, where 450 litres of arak was seized.

Jembrana Police said they were doing all they could to prevent any further casualties from drinking arak, and were inspecting stalls around the regency daily.

Negara Police chief Ngurah Putu Riasa said 18 litres of illegal arak in jerrycans was seized from one stall in Tibubeleng, Perancak, on Wednesday.

In addition, he said 10 bottles of illegal wine was taken from a stall in Mendoyo and another nine from one in Marga, Berawah.

Sanglah Hospital released the results of five autopsies performed on arak victims on Tuesday.

Co-ordinator of forensics at Sanglah Dr. Dudut Rustyadi said the autopsies of three of the foreign victims showed traces methanol, arsenic and cyanide.

Chairman of Bali’s Hindu Association IGN Sudiana voiced concern over the Balinese community’s drinking habits, saying people must stop drinking arak to prevent any further deaths.

Sudiana said young people should be taking part in more creative and constructive activities, like playing music, instead of getting drunk.

He said the government must be tough on arak producers to stop the damaging effects the drink was having on the community.

Unlicensed arak is generally sold at roadside foodstalls, and many stall owners The Bali Times spoke to this week said their supplies had been confiscated by police.

However, a Times reporter found a man in Canggu selling arak in plastic bags (as pictured) from his house, for Rp2,000 (19 US cents) per bag.

“I buy it from Kerobokan Market, where they sell it in drums to avoid detection,” he said.

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