Teenage victims of nightclubs in South Africa had methanol in their systems

Teenage victims of nightclubs in South Africa had methanol in their systems

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Traces of methanol – a colorless and highly toxic liquid – were discovered in the bodies of all 21 teenagers found dead at a South African nightclub last month, while the investigation into the cause of the mysterious deaths that stunned society continues.

Public officials and members of the police and health ministry said at a news conference on Tuesday that while the drug had been detected in the blood samples of all the teenagers, experts assessed the levels of methanol recorded to determine if the amount was “lethal” or “non-lethal”.

Litha Matiwane, Eastern Cape Province’s deputy director of clinical services, said initial tests ruled out alcohol and carbon monoxide poisoning as possible causes of death, and that officials were awaiting more decisive results from a Cape Town laboratory.

The victims, who were between 13 and 17 years old, were found sunk over tables and chairs inside the Enyobeni Tavern in the coastal city of East London on 26 June. Initial reports suggested that a storm could have been blamed, although officials later said they believed the victims had inhaled or ingested a toxic substance. There were no clear signs of injury.

The deaths sparked a nationwide debate over minors drinking in taverns in South Africa’s black townships, plagued by poverty, high unemployment and lack of basic services in an apartheid legacy. The legal alcohol age in South Africa is 18.

Yonela Dekeda, a spokeswoman for the Eastern Cape Department of Health, told The Washington Post that the first test results were “not conclusive”.

“There are several tests being done to identify exactly what the cause of death was,” she said. “We can not say at this stage where they got the methanol, whether it was through liquor or something else. It is still unknown. “

Families seek justice after nightclub deaths in South Africa

Methanol is often found in fuels, plastics, pesticides, paints and antifreezes. It is toxic to humans and can cause a number of adverse health effects, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most methanol poisonings occur as a result of drinking beverages contaminated with the substance or from beverage products that contain it, says the CDC, adding that signs and symptoms of exposure, which can lead to death include nausea, dilated pupils, decreased level of consciousness and respiratory arrest.

Methanol is sometimes bought in bulk and alcoholic beverages are added to increase profits, which can cause serious disease outbreaks, according to the Methanol Poisoning Initiative, launched by Oslo University Hospital and MSF.

A witness told The Post that those suffering inside the room shouted “I can not breathe” and “I get suffocated” before they fell to the ground and died around her. Others remembered being “suffocated” by a substance that “smelled like gas.”

Survivor describes nightclub disaster: “I can not breathe”

Dekeda said that final results can “take weeks or months” to achieve. Asked if other possible causes of death were being investigated, she said: “Not at the moment.”

Last week, South African police said so The 52-year-old owner of Enyobeni Tavern was arrested along with two employees aged 33 and 34. The owner is expected to appear in court next month, charged with charges that include supplying minors with alcohol, Reuters reported.

A funeral for the 21 teenagers was held on July 6, their coffins were laid out side by side, surrounded by candles and yellow and white roses.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered a eulogy, sharing details about their lives, their personalities and their hopes for the future.

“These are the lives we have lost,” he said, naming the victims. “Our nation has lost young people who wanted to become doctors, teachers, policemen and women, lawyers, actors, businessmen and entrepreneurs.”

In his speech, Ramaphosa said the government would crack down on those who profit from underage drinking.

“The blame must be placed on the feet of those who make money on the dreams and lives of young people in South Africa by breaking the law and selling them alcohol,” he said, urging police and parents to work together to stop illegal incidents and other activities. . “Today it is someone else’s child; tomorrow it may be yours. “

Wroughton reported from Cape Town.

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