Quito – Ecuador's health minister confirmed that the death toll has risen to 23 after dozens of people consumed liquor containing methanol, but he remarked that the final results of toxicology tests to determine the exact cause of death for the victims are not yet in.
"From the clinical point of view, it's probable that it will be poisoning by methanol," David Chiriboga told the press.
The latest victim is a 24-year-old man from the southwestern coastal province of Guayas who had consumed alcohol at a family reunion.
His sister was also admitted to a hospital with symptoms of poisoning.
So far, 20 of the dead are from the southwestern province of Los Rios, where last week a traditional festival was held featuring homemade liquor.
Two other people from the central province of Tungurahua died after drinking Tentador wine, and the bottler of the beverage was closed, the Health Ministry reported.
A 72-hour ban imposed on alcohol sales and consumption in response to the poisoning is set to expire Wednesday afternoon, but a Health Ministry spokesperson told Efe that a possible extension of the ban is under discussion.
Police have arrested 174 people for selling alcohol in defiance of the ban.
The Interior Ministry, in a communique published on its Web site, said that to date more than 4,500 liters (almost 1,200 gallons) of homemade liquor have been seized nationwide and will now be tested to determine if it, too, is poisoned.