Poisoned Cambodian Villagers Return Home From Hospital After Contamination Incident That Killed 13

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

Cambodian villagers hospitalized after drinking water taken from a polluted river have begun to return home, with many openly concerned that clean water distributed by authorities may soon run out, leaving them again dependent on a contaminated source.

Over 200 villagers in Cambodia’s Kratie province were sickened, with 13 later dying, in an outbreak of illnesses beginning last week that authorities blamed partly on the consumption of homemade wine, citing symptoms including blurred vision and shortness of breath linked to methanol poisoning.

Most of those who had fallen ill had been sickened separately by drinking river water polluted by animal waste and insecticides, though, authorities said. 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.

The Cambodian Red Cross this week dispersed supplies including rice, scarves and canned goods to 400 villagers affected by the incident. Families of dead villagers received cash payments of $500 USD and rice from the charity.