CAIRO – Villagers briefly locked the Egyptian health minister and a provincial governor inside a hospital room Tuesday after allegedly contaminated water caused hundreds of residents to fall ill, officials said.
A hospital in the Nile Delta province of Menoufia, 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of Cairo, admitted dozens of people with severe cases of diarrhea, vomiting and high fevers, Health Ministry official Amr Kandil said.
Egypt's state-run news agency MENA said the number of sick people reached more than 400.
During a visit by Health Minister Mohammed Mustafa and Gov. Ashraf Helal to the hospital Tuesday, angry family members held up bottles of brackish-looking water and chanted, "drink it." Then they locked the two officials in a room.
After an hour, the two were released with police intervention. Mustafa ordered closure of illegal and unlicensed sources of water. Helal suspended government employees responsible for the village's main source of tap water.
Kandil said a medical team collected samples of the water the villagers say is polluted, in order to determine whether it was the cause of the sickness.
Water and food poisoning are common in Egypt, mainly because of poor oversight, deteriorating public services, and mushrooming slums and residential buildings outside government control across the country.