Poisoned cocaine kills at least 20
A further 74 were seriously injured after taking the adulterated substance in Buenos Aires
More than 20 people are understood to have died and a further 74 hospitalized on Wednesday evening after taking what is believed to have been tainted cocaine in Buenos Aires province, Argentina.
In an update early on Thursday morning, the province’s health ministry confirmed the number of victims, adding that 18 of those in hospital were requiring mechanical respiration.
Authorities in the Argentine capital said that the drugs were sold in “Puerta 8” – a poor neighborhood in the northern Buenos Aires suburb of San Martin – but that experts were still analyzing the substance to determine whether it caused the deaths. Another theory is that the cocaine was “cut” with another illegal drug.
A dozen people had been arrested in connection with the deaths, the police said.
Officials have suggested that the drugs had been spiked intentionally as part of an ongoing feud between gangs.
“This event is absolutely exceptional. We have no precedent,” San Martin Attorney General Marcelo Lapargo told cable channel Todo Noticias.
“If the situation has escalated and the nature of trafficking has changed to the point where this becomes commonplace, I hope I never see it again,” he added.
Authorities had initially said that eight gang members died on Tuesday after purchasing the drugs, but that number quickly grew.
Lapargo noted a serious urgency to remove the poisoned substance from the market. “There must be a lot of people with a bag in their pocket and the number of people hospitalized shows that the most important thing is to stop this extremely high risk,” he stated.
He urged anyone who had bought cocaine in the previous 24 hours to dispose of it.
Argentina has the third highest rate of cocaine consumption per person in the Americas after the US and Uruguay.