YAOUNDE Twenty-one people died and six remain in hospital in eastern Cameroon after drinking what is believed to have been a toxic batch of locally distilled alcohol, regional officials said on Wednesday. People began falling ill after consuming odontol, a strong spirit distilled from either palm wine or corn or sugar cane, at a party on Sunday in the town of Mindourou in East Region. "Some experienced gastric problems, loss of vision and loss of consciousness. Fourteen people died there on the spot," said Robert Mathurin Bidjang, a regional health official. Unconscious victims were taken to the local hospital, where seven people died, the most recent victim on Tuesday. Six others remained under observation on Wednesday.
Regional governor Gregoire Mvongo confirmed the death toll and local authorities were warning of the risks of consuming odontol.
The spirit is popular due to its high alcohol content and low cost, but its production is largely unregulated and deaths in Cameroon are regularly attributed to its consumption.
(Reporting by Sylvain Andzongo; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
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