Tainted Arak Claims another Two Lives

The Bali Times

TWO PEOPLE have died and more than 20 have been hospitalised after drinking traditional alcohol laced with methanol, bought from a Klungkung cafe at the weekend.

The men had drunk the traditional Balinese rice liquor known as arak at three separate gatherings in Klungkung regency on Friday and Saturday, but it later emerged that all the suspect arak had been brought from the same place, a café owned by Su Penyu in Pakel, Sampalan.

Most of the victims fell ill on Sunday, experiencing dizziness, vomiting and blurred vision.

“All the patients had symptoms of metabolic acidosis, which means increased acid levels in the blood. This phenomenon is very typical of methanol poisoning,” said Dr Ida Bagus Putu Alit, head of forensic medicine at Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar.

Some of the victims were initially admitted to Klungkung Hospital before being transferred to Sanglah.  Six men were brought to Sanglah on Monday, while a further 17 were transferred the following day.  One unnamed man died at Sanglah, while another died at the main hospital in Klungkung.

Dr Ken Wirasandhi, head of medical services at Sanglah, said that the effects of drinking tainted arak were severe.

“They suffered from ruptured mucous membranes, brain injuries and inflammation of their internal organs,” he said.

Some of the men were discharged after treatment on Tuesday, but the more severe cases remain in hospital.

One of the victims, Gede Juni Antara, 24, said that he had drunk the arak with friends before attending a ceremony at the Pura Batur temple in Klungkung of Friday.

Another man, Wayan Sumirta, said he had partied with 10 friends in Lekok.

“I certainly like to drink, but this arak was different.  It was the colour of petrol and it smelled like paraffin, but the taste was really good.  I don’t know what they mixed it with, but anyway, when it was mixed with lemon juice it tasted even better.  That’s why we finished nine bottles of the stuff.  Actually I don’t know how many bottles were drunk in total by my friends because after nine bottles I went to sleep; I couldn’t take any more,” Sumirta said.

Police officers visited the men who remained in hospital on Tuesday morning after collecting samples of the suspect alcohol.

M Yudi Hartono of Klungkung Police said that the authorities were taking the incident seriously and would take firm action against those found responsible.

“We are also still looking for the seller and the wine distributor who allegedly caused the deaths of our residents,” he said.

There has been a spate of recent deaths caused by locally distilled alcohol.  Last year 26 people, including four foreigners, died after consuming arak laced with methanol.

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