Hundreds of Kratie province villagers were discharged from hospital yesterday after recovering from a poisoning incident that killed 13 people and left hundreds ill.
Chhneang Sovutha, director of the provincial health department, yesterday said that the villagers recovered and were allowed to return to their homes.
“Now they returned to their homes after feeling better,” Mr Sovutha said. “We found that villagers died after drinking rice wine that contained high levels of methanol while those who were injured consumed water from the Prek Ter stream.”
Phon Phea, Kantuot commune police chief, said that all villagers have been discharged from hospital., adding that authorities will continue providing clean water for them to use.
“I saw provincial officials digging wells for villagers at Ter Chamlong point in Sre Non village and in Ye point in Aloch village in Kantuot commune,” Mr Phea said.
Mom Kham, Thmey commune chief in Chetr Borei district, said that his villagers were beginning to return after the Kratie provincial referral hospital and commune health centre discharged them.
Pen Lina, Kratie province deputy governor, could not be reached for a comment yesterday but said last week that provincial mines and energy department officials visited the area and said that gold mining played no role in the poisoning.
Villagers had floated the idea of run-off from gold mines after authorities first said the stream was contaminated by pesticides and then said villagers had consumed bad wine.
Last week, lab tests results of stream water showed that samples contained high levels of chemicals from the use of pesticides.
“Most of the people are sick because they drank bad rice wine while some drank tainted water from Prek Ter stream,” the Health Ministry said at the time.
The Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts had already issued its own statement last week saying that lab tests showed the rice wine had a methanol level of 11.22 percent, way above the maximum allowable level of 0.15 percent.
The ministry added that the stream water had a chromium level of 173 micrograms per litre, while the maximum allowable level is just 50 micrograms per litre.
The water also had a nitrate level from seven to 23 milligrams per litre, while the maximum allowable level is just three milligrams per litre.
A total of 13 villagers died while more than 200 were hospitalised since May 3, when people from two villages in Kantuot commune first began falling ill.