Authorities in the Argentine town of Hurlingham, in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Wednesday reported 20 people had died and 74 others had been hospitalized after consuming tainted cocaine.
A large number of those admitted into health care facilities, were seriously ill, due to which additional fatalities are not ruled out to occur in the near future.
While some of the deaths happened at the victims' homes, hospitals in Hurlingham, San Martín, Tres de Febrero, Morón, Tigre, Ituzaingó and General Rodríguez admitted patients severely intoxicated, with 26 people currently under ventilation support.
The victims, aged between 31 and 48, who ere hospitalized between 2 and 11 in the morning, while the drugs are presumed to have been in the shanty town known as Puerta 8 in Loma Hermosa.
The Buenos Aires provincial Health Ministry has issued an epidemiological alert for adulterated cocaine use with a series of recommendations for health care professionals in its jurtisdiction.
Authorities have also alerted the population that a toxic substance had gone into informal markets. People have been advised to refrain from cosuming any recreational drugs pending the outcome of the ongoing police inquiry, as investigators are yet to determine which substance had been added to the cocaine, which is attacking the central nervous system,” according to Provincial Security Minister Sergio Berni. We are waiting for the laboratory results and the results of the investigations into the people who have been detained, Berni also pointed out. He also said in a TV interview that authorities were trying to locate the rest of the tainted cocaine “to remove it from circulation.”
Authorities insisted their main concern at this point was to raise awareness, so that those who might have bought this cocaine refrain from consuming it. Possession and personal consumption of cocaine have been decriminalized in the country, but while transporting and selling it are still illegal.
At least 12 people have been arrested in Tres de Febrero, allegedly in connection with the case, but local residents began burning tyres to block roads, claiming these actions were random detentions of innocent people.
Investigators believe the drug could have been poisoned as a result of a conflict between rival trafficking gangs. However, the San Martin Prosecutor Marcelo Lapargo said in a radio interview that it was all mere speculation.
This isn't a normal investigation,” Lapargo said. He also explained Wedenesday's swift actions had been aimed at preventing further sales of the tainted drug, so as to avoid any new intoxications.