Eight dead after drinking alcohol made from coconut sap

At least eight people in the Philippines have died – and 300 more taken to the hospital – after drinking a local liquor made from coconut sap.

The victims came from different towns but had bought the liquor – known as lambanog – from the same shop, say local media reports.

They complained of stomach pains and dizziness before being treated.

Bootleg versions of lambanog, which has an alcohol content of around 40%, are common.

Police say most of the victims hailed from Rizal town in Laguna province, southeast of the capital Manila. Others came from the nearby Quezon province, BBC reports.

In a Facebook post over the weekend, the governor of Laguna province said he had put in place a temporary ban on the sale of lambanog – which is in high demand during the Christmas season.

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Governor Ramil Hernandez said an investigation into the incident would be opened.

This is not the first time people in the Philippines have died from drinking lambanog. According to local reports, at least 21 people died last year after drinking it.

More widely, methanol poisoning from bootleg alcohol is a problem across poorer parts of Asia.

“If you ask people if they’ve seen methanol poisoning they would say no,” Dr. Knut Erik Hovda – a global expert in methanol outbreaks from Oslo University – told the BBC in October.

“If you ask the same person whether he or she has seen someone becoming blind or dying from drinking, they would say of course, this is happening all the time. And that is highly specific for methanol.”