PHNOM PENH, May 7 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from drinking tainted rice wine and suspected contaminated water in eastern Cambodia's Kratie province has risen to 13, Chheang Sovutha, director of the Kratie Provincial Health Department, said Monday.
"Two more victims died today, bringing the number of the dead to 13," he told Xinhua.
Besides the dead, he said about 200 villagers have been hospitalized at the Kratie Provincial Hospital and eight of them, who are in severe condition, have been sent to the Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh.
The incident occurred at Sre Non and Aloch villages in Kantuot commune of Chitborey district last week after villagers reportedly drank rice wine and water collected from a canal, the Ministry of Health said in a statement on Monday.
The victims had the same symptoms such as stomach ache, vomit, sore throat, fatigue, dizziness, and breathing difficulty, the statement said, adding that all the victims aged between 24 and 73 years old.
The statement said health officials on Sunday took the samples of locally-made rice wine and suspected polluted water in the two villages for examination and found that the rice wine contained "high methanol levels" that caused poison, while the result of the diagnosis of the suspected contaminated water was not available yet.
According to the statement, local authorities had closed the production and sales of rice wine in the villages, banned the villagers from using suspected contaminated water in the canal, and provided them with clean water.
"I'd like to appeal to people not to drink wine that has no clear source, or produces without proper techniques, especially the wine that is blended with methanol," Minister of Health Mam Bunheng said in the statement.
"People should not flow, or discharge waste or chemical substances into lakes, rivers, or canals that are the sources of water for our consumption," he said.