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Seven die, 41 are hospitalized in Cuba after drinking methanol

01 августа 2013, 17:48
©REUTERS/Petr Josek
©REUTERS/Petr Josek
Seven people died and 41 were hospitalized in Havana after drinking illegally sold lab alcohol, AFP reports citing the Cuban Health Ministry.

Six men and one woman have died, and eight hospitalized patients are in critical condition, the provincial health directorate of Havana said in a statement released by the official news agency Prensa Latina.

The methanol was stolen from a state laboratory by two employees and sold by a woman in Havana's western neighborhood of La Lisa, the statement said.

"Due to its characteristics, it is difficult to differentiate from ethyl alcohol, which can lead to the occurrence of unfortunate accidents," the note said. Ethyl alcohol is what gives alcoholic beverages their intoxicating characteristics.

Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol or wood alcohol, is commonly used for chemical reactions in science laboratories.

The substance is "highly toxic to the human body, and its consumption can lead to serious consequences such as blindness and even death," the text said.

Many Cubans -- who earn an average of less than 20 dollars a month -- buy food and drink of unknown origin on the black market because it is cheaper, making poisonings a grim reality of everyday life.

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