AT least eight people, six of them women, have died in Gulu town after consuming poisonous locally distilled waragi, known as dete.
Chris Ocowun reports that the deaths, according to the Police, occurred in the areas of Layibi centre in Pece division, Cereleno in Layibi division and Kabedo-Pong in Bardege division.
The poisonous waragi was imported from Kamdini in Oyam district and Hoima, the Police said.
Two waragi sellers, identified as Vicky Acayo 35, and Evalyn Ayaa, 32, from Kabedo-pong, have been arrested. Acayo said she bought the waragi from a distributor in Cereleno.
The dead were identified as 36-year-old Stephen Ochen of Layibi Centre, Rose Ayat, 40, Korina Akello, 50, Sophia Acheng, 70, and Abdul Ogen, 38. They all died after drinking the liquor from Kabedo-Pong.
The others who died are Janet Adoch, 30, Evalyn Apio, 25 and Margaret Akot, 36, of Layibi division where the poisonous waragi was distilled. The dead consumed the waragi on Thursday and Friday and died on Saturday. Apio was buried at Ajulu in Patiko sub-county.
Another victim, Ogen, died in Gulu Hospital where he had been rushed for treatment. In addition, a primary school teacher lost his sight after drinking the waragi. On Sunday, eight jerricans containing the waragi were impounded from shops at Cereleno by the Police and local leaders.
The regional Police spokesman, Johnson Kilama, said investigations into the deaths were still ongoing. Samples of the waragi would be taken to the Government chemist for testing, he added.
The LC3 chairman of Bar dege division, Debob Ochan, called for the closure of the depot where the waragi was stored and sold. He also appealed for a ban on the sale and consumption of waragi to prevent further deaths.
The Gulu cases are the latest fatalities of the liquor. Recently, over 20 people died in Kabarole, Kasese, Kampala, Mpigi and Entebbe.
Health authorities say the waragi contains methanol, a form of alcohol for industrial purposes.
When consumed, methanol releases toxic substances. It takes between 12 to 24 hours after consumption for a person to develop symptoms of poisoning. These include headache, drowsiness, vomiting, blurred vision, fits and eventually coma.
Difficulty in breathing and suffocation may also occur.
The health ministry has banned waragi packed in sachets but the trade ministry has petitioned Parliament for the ban to be lifted. The matter is still being scrutinised in Parliament.
Potent brew kills eight in Gulu district