Quito – The Ecuadorian government imposed a 72-hour nationwide ban on sales and consumption of alcohol after 21 people died from drinking homemade aguardiente made with methanol.
The announcement was made Sunday during a press conference at which a number officials took part including Health Minister David Chiriboga and Security Minister Homero Arellano, and at which a national health emergency was declared.
A source at Arellano's office told Efe that the ban on booze is in force for all types of liquors, but only homemade alcohol will be subject to summary confiscation.
Authorities had already declared the health emergency and alcohol ban in Los Rios province, where the deaths took place and where some 9,000 liters (2,400 gallons) of homemade liquor were seized.
Chiriboga told the public that if they experience such symptoms as nausea, vomiting, bodily pain, affected eyesight, convulsions, changes in mental function or gasping for breath, they should go without delay to the nearest hospital or clinic.
He also asked them to get rid of any homemade booze they might have at home.
An analysis has determined that the liquor consumed on a massive scale during festivities in the town of Los Rios contained methanol, according to the Public Health Ministry.
The institution warned that the adulterated aguardiente might also be on sale in other areas of the country, as well as the town in Los Rios province where more than 100 people have required treatment.
Police said that one person associated with the sale of the liquor has been taken into custody.