69 dead, 196 hospitalized in Mozambique after drinking tainted homemade beer

At least 69 people have died and 196 have been hospitalized after drinking tainted homemade beer at a funeral in Mozambique.

Drinking Pombe -- a traditional Mozambican home-brewed beer -- at funerals is common practice in the African nation. But shortly after a funeral in the northeastern Tete province in central Mozambique Friday, victims of the apparent poisoning were rushed to hospitals complaining of similar symptoms.

"As we prepared to determine the cause of death of people, we began to receive a lot of people with diarrhea and other muscle aches. After that we began to receive dead bodies from several neighborhoods," health director Paula Bernardo told Radio Mozambique, Reuters reported.

By Sunday, district health officials said 56 had died from the contamination and 49 were hospitalized. But the numbers of victims jumped overnight and at least 69 have died and 196 people have been admitted to Tete hospitals as of Monday, Bernardo said.

Pombe is made from millet or corn flour. The exact source of the contamination is still unclear, but a health official said authorities believe the drink was poisoned with crocodile bile during the course of the funeral.

Suspicious objects found inside the drum, blood, and beer samples were sent to the capital Maputo to be tested, said provincial health director Carle Mosse.

The woman who brewed the beer, several members of her family, and a toddler were among the victims, Radio Mozambique reported.

Authorities are collecting food, clothing and coffins for the dozens of bereaved families. Outgoing Mozambique President Armando Guebuza has declared three days of national mourning.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.