October 31, 2001

El Salvador probes apparent alcohol-poisoning deaths

                 SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) -- Salvadoran prosecutors announced
                 Wednesday that they are investigating the deaths of five farmers who died
                 after apparently drinking methanol-laced liquor.

                 The five men died in early October in Sonsonate, a province in southern El
                 Salvador, prosecutor Carlos Fuentes told a news conference.

                 Evidence indicates the men drank a sugarcane liquor known as aguardiente that had
                 been contaminated with methanol, a poisonous substance normally used as an
                 antifreeze in cars.

                 The deaths brought the national death toll from methanol-laced drinks to 20 so far
                 in 2001. The previous year, contaminated liquor caused a wave of over 100 deaths
                 in rural El Salvador.

                 Those that have survived the poison are often left permanently blind by its effects.

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.