Twenty-one people were hospitalised in northern France, two in a serious condition, after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning during Christmas mass, emergency services said Wednesday.
Emergency personnel were sent to the church in the Oise department after several people complained of headaches during the religious ceremony on Christmas eve.
The church was evacuated to a nearby community hall where 72 people were treated. Of those, 19 were brought to nearby hospitals and two, with more severe symptoms, to specialist centres where one was placed in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.
Local emergency official Nicolas Mougin said carbon monoxide levels up to 350 parts per million (ppm) were measured inside the church.
The cause of the poisoning has not been determined but investigators were looking into a gas heater.
The local mayor has ordered the church closed.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, invisible gas produced when burning fuels such as coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane or natural gas.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website states that exposure to sustained CO concentrations above 150 to 200 ppm can lead to disorientation, unconsciousness and even death.
Eight people died and hundreds were taken to hospitals in the Philippines after drinking coconut wine believed to contain high levels of methanol, authorities said Monday.
The victims all attended gatherings over the weekend in the town of Rizal, southeast of Manila, and complained of stomach pains after drinking the wine, known locally as “lambanog”.
Nine victims are in a critical condition, Jose Jonas Del Rosario, spokesman for the capital’s Philippine General Hospital, told AFP.
“We asked many of our doctors on holiday leave to report to work just to attend to the patients,” he said, adding that the need to treat large numbers who arrived with symptoms of alcohol poisoning meant other people were turned away.
In total, 300 victims were taken to hospitals. All drank the same brand of wine that had been bought in the area, police said.
The local government has imposed an immediate ban on the sale of the beverage, which is in high demand over the Christmas holidays.
Much of the coconut wine on the market is manufactured by locals in backyard operations. The government had previously warned against selling unregistered alcoholic beverages.
Del Rosario, a doctor, said one of the byproducts of coconut wine fermentation is methanol, which can cause blindness and death. Some manufacturers keep the methanol in because it means greater volume and more profit, he added.
Last year, more than 10 people died from drinking coconut wine, samples of which were found by the government regulator to have high methanol content.
Two men accused by London of poisoning former Moscow spy Sergei Skripal denied involvement in the murder attempt in a bizarre Russian media interview on Thursday.
Speaking with the head of the Kremlin-backed RT news network, the pair confirmed they were the men whose pictures British authorities released this month, but insisted they were visiting the English city of Salisbury as tourists.
British security services had named the men as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, but said these were likely to be aliases.
In a 25-minute interview, the men said these were their real names but insisted they did not work for Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, as Britain claims.
RT said the men sounded distressed and were sweating as they spoke.
Both appeared to be about 40 years old, and they wore almost identical dark blue jumpers. The men looked well-built and Boshirov wore what looked like a red Kabbalah bracelet.
The TV station recorded the interview on Wednesday evening, just hours after President Vladimir Putin said Russia had identified the men sought by Britain and urged the pair to address the media.
“They are civilians,” Putin said, adding there was nothing criminal about them.
London believes Putin personally sanctioned the attack.
The United States is planning a new set of “very severe” sanctions on Russia over its alleged use of the Novichok nerve agent in the March 4 poisoning of Skripal and his daughter Yulia, Assistant Secretary of State Manisha Singh told a congressional hearing Thursday.
She said Russia had until November to allow on-site inspections of facilities linked to the potent poison, and to provide “verifiable” assurances that Novichok will not be used again.
‘Insult to public’s intelligence’
The Skripal assassination attempt has drawn comparisons with the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko with highly radioactive polonium in London in 2006.
Moscow has refused to extradite the two men Britain suspects of killing Litvinenko. One of them, Andrei Lugovoi, went on to become a Russian lawmaker.
Downing Street on Thursday called the RT interview “an insult to the public’s intelligence”.
“More importantly they are deeply offensive to the victims and loved ones of this horrific attack. Sadly, it’s what we’ve come to expect,” Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said.
Skripal and his daughter survived, but a British couple, Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, came into contact with the same nerve agent in a town near Salisbury months later. Sturgess died.
Petrov and Boshirov said they arrived in Britain on March 2 and travelled to Salisbury the next day to see the sights.
They left after no more than an hour because of poor weather and heavy snow, but returned to the city the next day — March 4, the day of the attack.
British authorities said the suspects travelled to Salisbury twice to prepare for the attack and then carry it out.
‘Enjoying English architecture’
“Friends have been telling us for a long time we should visit this beautiful city,” said the broad-shouldered Petrov.
“We went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere,” he added, referring to famous local landmarks.
Boshirov, sporting a goatee, denied the pair knew anything about Skripal or the location of his house.
“We walked around and enjoyed this English Gothic architecture,” he said.
British investigators say the poison was transported in a fake Nina Ricci perfume bottle and sprayed onto the handle of Skripal’s front door.
“Is it not silly for decent lads to have women’s perfume?” Boshirov asked. “The customs are checking everything. We didn’t have it.”
The pair said they had previously travelled to Europe for business and pleasure.
‘Sent through meat grinders’
The men complained their lives had become a “nightmare” and urged journalists to leave them alone.
“We’re afraid of going out, we fear for ourselves, our lives and lives of our loved ones,” Boshirov said. “We are tired.”
When RT editor Margarita Simonyan asked them why they travelled together, implying they might be a gay couple, the men said their private lives were off limits.
“This is not an interrogation,” Boshirov said.
Simonyan said the men had contacted her on her cellphone.
Boshirov and Petrov said they called her because they needed protection and would like an apology from Britain.
British Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan said their account was “so unconvincing” it brought “Russia into ridicule”.
“If these two suspects are prepared to answer questions on Russian television, let them come here and answer some more searching questions about what we know they did,” he told AFP.
Social networks ran amok, with many deriding what the duo said as a flimsy attempt to cover their tracks.
“The Spy Who Went Home Because It Was Cold,” quipped Twitter user Ben Stanley.
Others suggested that Moscow had essentially thrown its intelligence agents under the bus.
“Unlike the murderers of Litvinenko,” wrote Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the US think-tank Atlantic Council, “these two men are sent through the meat grinders”.
“How can the GRU allow their obedient officers to be ridiculed like this?” he added.
At least 13 people have died and nearly 150 have been hospitalised in central Cambodia after drinking the contaminated liquid, health officials said Monday, blaming either home brewed rice wine or water.
The deaths began on May 3, rocking two villages in the poor, rural Chet Borey district of Kratie province.
“As of today (Monday) 13 people have died,” Chheang Savutha, provincial health director, said.
“We don’t know what cause is of the incident yet, we are working on that now,” he added.
The Ministry of Health said samples from local rice alcohol found high levels of methanol, which can be very toxic.
But officials were also awaiting test results from water samples.
The ministry warned villagers to stop drinking rice alcohol and to take extra care over the hygiene of their food and water.
Cambodia is one of Asia’s poorest countries and health and safety standards are virtually non-existent outside of the major cities.
A French woman dubbed the “Black Widow of the Riviera” for allegedly seducing and poisoning wealthy elderly men, leading to the deaths of two of them, went on trial for murder in the resort city of Nice on Monday.
Patricia Dagorn, 57, is charged with the fatal poisoning of two men found dead in 2011 on the Cote d’Azur and the drugging of two others. Prosecutors say she attempted to enrich herself by seducing older men she met mostly through a dating agency.
Dagorn is already serving a five-year prison term for theft, fraud and sequestration involving an octogenarian in the French Alps in 2012 who had agreed to let her live with him in exchange for sexual relations.
She was brought into the dock looking dishevelled in an oversize black-and-read tracksuit.
One of the men she is accused of trying to poison, 91-year-old widower Robert Vaux, will take the stand this week to testify against her.
“She was like a ray of sunshine in winter. When you are with a younger woman you know it won’t last but you don’t deny yourself the moment unless you’re a masochist,” Vaux, a former sailor, told reporters at the courthouse on Monday.
Police had already suspected Dagorn after the body of Michel Kneffel, a man in his 60s with whom she had been living at a residential hotel in Nice, was discovered in July 2011.
No charges were filed at the time, but the investigation was reopened the following year after police found vials of Valium and personal documents belonging to about a dozen different men among her belongings.
The documents included IDs, bank account details and health insurance cards.
Investigators then followed the trail to another suspected murder case, that of Francesco Filippone, 85, whose body was found in his bathtub in an advanced state of decomposition in Mouans-Sartoux, outside Cannes, in February 2011.
Dagorn had earlier cashed a cheque from Filippone for 21,000 euros ($25,600), money which she said was a gift to help her open a jewellery shop.
“She denies the charges against her in their entirety, including the thefts,” said one of her lawyers, Georges Rimondi.
On day one of the trial, Dagorn’s lawyers attempted to undermine parts of the prosecution case.
Did she really have a will drawn up for Filippone?
“We haven’t found one”, an investigator giving evidence admitted.
When Dagorn was charged over the cases in 2015, Rimondi described his client as a “fragile” individual who had been placed in foster care at a young age, and who says “she feels better with elderly people”.
“She is eager to explain herself,” said her other lawyer, Cedric Huissoud, adding that she had suffered during her years in prison.
‘Quick and easy money’
Police now think Dagorn may have met at least 20 men, after arriving on the French Riviera in 2011, mainly via a matchmaking agency.
In most of the cases she allegedly asked the men for money or to name her in their wills, or she stole documents from them, while a few were accused of rape.
Vaux, comfortably retired but lonely since the death of his wife, brought Dagorn to live with him in early 2012 in the coastal town of Frejus.
When he was at his lowest ebb, Dagorn wrote to his solicitor, asking to be written into his will, according to Vaux.
He and another man whom Dagorn is accused of trying to poison, Ange Pisciotta, 82, have joined the case as civil plaintiffs.
Both men are expected to take the witness stand on Tuesday.
Dagorn, who has a law degree, had already been handed a one-year suspended prison term in a case involving her ex-husband who was found guilty of fraud.
In 2013, her youngest son told a local newspaper that he was not surprised by the accusations against his mother.
“She has always been obsessed with quick and easy money,” the son, identified only as Guilhem, told Nice Matin daily.