Nairobi: Eight people have died and scores more have been wounded in a crackdown in Kenya on illegally brewed alcohol, reports and officials said Saturday.
Hundreds of people have also been arrested, business premises destroyed and thousands of litres destroyed in the operation, sparked by government concern over rising alcoholism and a recent spate of deaths linked to illicit drinks.
The crackdown has been focussed on central Kenya and the capital Nairobi, where last year at least 80 people died and dozens more were blinded by concoctions laced with methanol -- a chemical used for the manufacture of anti-freeze and used by some unscrupulous manufacturers to increase alcohol content.
According to The Star newspaper, seven people died when a lorry carrying confiscated methanol exploded in the Nairobi district of Kayole, apparently because one of the persons on the truck lit a match. Another person was shot dead in a raid on a factory in Naivasha, west of Nairobi, reports said.
Quoting figures from the state-funded alcohol and drug abuse authority, The Nation newspaper said that in some areas illicit brews accounted for more than three quarters of all alcohol consumed, with 62 percent of road accidents linked to drink driving.
In one area, the report said nearly 60 percent of women were hooked on illicit brews, while the scourge has also been linked to violent crime and domestic violence.
The crackdown follows the personal intervention of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who a State House official said was "personally alarmed" by the situation.
Kenya has strict laws banning the public consumption of alcohol during much of the day and the sale of alcohol at certain times of day.
However, alcohol laws are rarely enforced in poorer districts and widespread poverty means that illegal vendors have no problem finding clients despite the health risk. Locally-distilled alcohol, usually made from fermented maize or sorghum, is popular among the poor, as it is a fraction of the price of commercial and legally made brews.