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Hundreds of People Become Severely Sick after Drinking Homemade Alcohol in Libya

Update Date: Mar 11, 2013 03:30 PM EDT

Alcohol poisoning is a risk that everyone takes when they drink a lot during the course of one night. However, that risk can often be elevated when people drink homemade brews. A reported 51 people in Libya have died from alcohol poisoning after drinking a homemade alcoholic beverage, and about 378 people have been taken to the country's hospitals. Officials say that the number of people affected may even rise.

According to the BBC, both the consumption and alcohol are illegal in Libya. However, like previous efforts of alcohol prohibition, alcohol is available on the black market. Often it is smuggled in through neighboring countries like Algeria, Malta and Tunisia. Other times it is created by enterprising brewers.

The alcohol in question is called Bokha. The cheap brew is made from a number of fruits, like dates, figs and grapes. Sometimes people put in industrial spirits, like methanol, to make the drink more potent. However, that can backfire; after drinking methanol, people can suffer from blindness, kidney failure, seizures and death.

Health officials say that 38 people died in hospitals in the country's capital city of Tripoli. An additional 13 people have reportedly died while traveling to Tunisia for medical attention. Many patients are undergoing kidney dialysis as a result of the brew, and the capital's hospitals are operating under a designated state of emergency, though some people affected are outside of the capital city.

An official from the Interior Ministry, Hussein al-Amry, said to BBC that police have surrounded houses where it is believed that the toxic brew was made. If those responsible for the health problem do not leave the premises, the police are authorized to use force to enter.

The outbreak has been in progress since Saturday, according to Reuters.

Because the country has long borders with other countries, Libya has seen a significant uptick in the amount of drug and alcohol trafficking in the country.

Libya is one of 12 countries that have full or partial bans of alcohol in place today.

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