Tegucigalpa -

Honduran authorities are investigating the deaths of 17 people who were apparently poisoned by drinking alcohol that had been mixed with methanol, officials said on Thursday.

“We are conducting toxicology tests and autopsies on the bodies to see if the deaths are due to the consumption of liquor,” a public prosecutor from the northern city of Siguatepeque, Israel Euceda, told AFP.

“More cases have been reported in other neighbourhoods of Siguatepeque and the surrounding villages,” he said.

The victims drank the alcohol on Friday, and the symptoms - stomach pains and vomiting - started on Sunday, officials said.

Health Minister Arturo Bendana said authorities would “investigate, because it is likely these deaths are related to methanol mixed” into alcohol.

Several more victims have been admitted to hospital with similar symptoms to the deceased.

“Methanol is cheaper than liquor and some people mix it, altering the product and provoking intoxication to the point of death,” chief government epidemiologist Tomas Guevara told newspaper El Heraldo.

The Honduran authorities have confiscated 700 cases of liquor from various locations in Siguatepeque and the local government has decreed a 48-hour ban on alcohol while investigations are carried out, Euceda said. - Sapa-AFP