Methanol, the lead in the death of 21 young men in a South African bar, was found without apparent injury

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During the national ceremony honoring the victims of Enyobeni Bar, in East London, South Africa, on July 6, 2022.

After more than three weeks of waiting and rumours, families of the 21 teenagers who died under mysterious circumstances in a pub in East London, South Africa on June 26 may finally have the lead. According to the South African authorities, preliminary results of toxicology analyzes do not reveal a lethal alcohol level or carbon monoxide poisoning. On the other hand, it indicates the presence of methanol in the blood of the victims, a toxic product sometimes used in the manufacture of imitation alcohol.

Read also: The mystery of the death of 21 young men, found dead but without visible injuries, in a bar in South Africa

“Usually, we find [le méthanol] in industrial products. It can be present in very small amounts in alcohol, but not as much as it is in the blood. What we want to know now is what quantity is there.”Dr. Letha Matiwani, Deputy Director of Health Services for Eastern Cape Province, said after a press conference on Tuesday, July 19. The authorities are waiting for the final results of the analyzes before ascertaining the possibility of poisoning and do not give any indications about the origin of the substance found in the victims.

Colorless methanol is used as a pesticide or as a solvent in paints, varnishes, and dyes… It is also found in some household products. They are highly toxic, and can cause respiratory or heart failure if ingested or inhaled. Cheaper than ethanol, it is sometimes used to make fake alcohol. In the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2020, nearly a dozen people died after drinking adulterated alcohol in South Africa.

The organizers promised, “You will kill.”

On June 25, a hundred young men gathered at the Enyobeni pub, in Scenery Park, a town on the outskirts of East London, on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Exams were just over, it’s time for vacation. The announcement of the DJ’s birthday party went viral on social media. “Kosovia”, the organizers promised – “You will kill,” in Xhosa language. In the early morning, the police found the bodies of about twenty young men scattered on the floor and on tables, without any injuries. Seventeen victims have already died, four will die in hospital. The youngest is 13 years old, the oldest is 17 years old.

The authorities denied the impact of the deadly stampede caused by a mass movement

The survivors of the tragedy were treated for headaches, vomiting, chest pain and visual disturbances. Symptoms can be consistent with methanol poisoning. In the aftermath of the tragedy, some survivors also described scenes of panic. The guards were closing the doors of the establishment to the teenagers trying to leave by spraying them with gas. Some conjure tear gas, others pepper spray. They all tell of people suffocating around them. The authorities dismissed the impact of the deadly stampede caused by a mass movement.

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“The fault lies with those who make money out of the dreams and futures of young South Africans by selling alcohol illegally.”, President Cyril Ramaphosa denounced during a state funeral on July 6. The tragedy has upset South Africans, who are demanding more controls on casual bars. Towns in particular are full “Chips”, These little pubs are not always authorized. Young people are good customers there in a country where two out of three unemployed people between the ages of 15 and 24 suffer. Parents are worried about the insecurity there. Since the Ineobeni tragedy, several pub shootings have left at least 21 people dead in the country.

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