June 22, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – At least 61 homeless people between the ages of 13-25 have died almost simultaneously in different parts of the Sudanese capital over the last three days after they drank a combination of methanol and other toxic substances.
- Bodies of the homeless who died as a result of drinking methanol (Al-Rayaam newspaper)
The Sudanese Ministry of Interior launched an extensive investigation into the mysterious death wave with several police officials suggesting that the poisonous substances were deliberately given to them by "ill-intentioned people".
Sniffing glue and drinking locally made alcoholic beverages is very common for homeless in Sudan who are known as "Shamassa".
The consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden in predominantly Arab-Muslim north Sudan, where Islamic sharia law applies.
Well placed sources in the interior ministry told Sudan Tribune that 34 bodies were found in Omdurman and 27 in Khartoum. Six of the homeless were admitted to hospital and treated for the poisoning.
A statement carried by the official website of the Sudanese police on Thursday said that there were 17 deaths reported in Omdurman and Khartoum so far.
The head of Khartoum state’s criminal police department, Major General Mohammed Ahmed, was quoted as saying in one of the statements that all the deaths were caused by the consumption of methanol and other toxic substances.
"The police have put their hand on the gang that was supplying these toxic substances and has arrested six suspects," Ahmed said, while urging the community to raise awareness of dangers of drinking industrial alcohol such as methanol.
It is estimated that there are around 35,000 homeless children in Khartoum who are mostly from areas that were going through armed conflict in South and Western Sudan.