Buenos Aires, Feb 3 (EFE).- At least 17 people have died and more than 50 were in hospitals in a Buenos Aires suburb after consuming cocaine adulterated with an alleged toxic substance, authorities said.
The death toll is likely to go up as authorities said they were constantly receiving new patients who had consumed the toxic cocaine.
Some victims died in their homes or on public roads, but the exact number was unknown, the authorities said on Wednesday.
Fifty-six people were in hospitals, and 26 were on respiratory support.
The San Martin public prosecutor, Marcelo Lapargo, told the TN news channel that the authorities were yet to determine what substance was mixed with cocaine that made it poisonous.
“It absolutely exceptional. We have no history of this to lead us to think that the substance has been mixed intentionally. It is not an error in the processing of the material. Or it doesn’t seem to be,” Lapargo said.
Police have arrested ten people and confiscated several packages of the poisonous drug similar to those found with the victims.
Police sources said that a victim admitted he bought the drug from a slum area in Tres de Febrero of the Greater Buenos Aires where an anti-narcotic operation was going on.
Buenos Aires security minister Sergio Berni said it appeared that a toxic substance was mixed with cocaine during a process to increase its narcotic effect.
“Every dealer that buys cocaine cuts it. Some do it with non-toxic substances like starch and talc. Others put hallucinogens in it, and if there is no form of control, this kind of thing happens,” Berni said.
The minister said nothing was ruled out.
The provincial government has issued a warning regarding the use of cocaine, asking people to visit health facilities immediately if they feel breathing difficulties or an excessive tendency to sleep after having cocaine in the last 24 hours.
The government encouraged people to help drug users who need medical attention without judging or stigmatizing.
Investigators are working on different hypotheses, even as Lapargo said it could be a part of the war between drug traffickers.
He said the idea was “conjectural.”
“I say that this is absolutely exceptional, it is not something that happens regularly so that I can compare it to another case and say this is what happens in a settling of accounts between gangs,” he said.
The prosecutor also joined the call not to consume it if one has cocaine. EFE