Hundreds of people in northern Egypt were hospitalised on Friday showing symptoms relating to poisoning, which locals suspect to have been caused by water contamination.
Dozens of ambulances were dispatched to Ibrahimiya city and surrounding villages in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqiya to take the victims, who included women and children, to local hospitals, state news agency MENA reported.
Authorities are analysing samples of drinking water and suspected food items to identify the cause of the poisoning, provincial health ministry official Sherif Makien told MENA.
Up to 379 people in Sharqiya showed symptoms of poisoning, health minister Adel Adaway stated on Friday afternoon, of which 192 patients had been discharged from hospital.
Adaway, who is currently in the governorate, stated that it would take at least three days to analyse samples taken from patients to determine the cause of the symptoms.
He insisted that the ministry would conduct its own analysis of the samples, and not depend on the governorate's drinking water and sanitation company's own analysis, which found no contamination.
Hossam Abdel Ghafar, official spokesperson for the ministry, announced that 141 cases had been transferred to the Ibrahimiyia hospital, 150 to the Hihya hospital, and 60 to the Dairab Negm hospital. Twenty others had been transferred to the Abu-Kabeer hospital in Sharkia.
Mohamed Shehata said his wife and his 10-year-old daughter had suddenly become ill with vomiting and severe diarrhoea. When they went to a local hospital, they discovered that dozens of the city’s residents were also hospitalised with the same symptoms.
Several locals told the Ahram Arabic news website that they believe the symptoms were caused by tap water, with some of them saying the water had smelled strange before the incident took place.
Another resident, Ibrahim Abdel-Azzim, said that some mosques had earlier cautioned against drinking tap water, claiming it was "saturated with toxic substances."
But Shaker Abdel-Fattah, a provincial water official from the governorate's drinking water and sanitation company, said that tap water could not be the source of the problem.
He said that the area’s water supply was fed by a filtration station, adding that samples taken proved that the proportions of chlorine and turbidity in the water were at a normal level.
Ayman Abdel-Kader, the head of the company, held the residents responsible for the incident, claiming that they buy drinking water from "unknown sources suspected to be contaminated."
Reports of water poisoning in the governorate are not uncommon.
Local residents had in the past complained that drinking water in the governorate was contaminated and mixed with sewage.
In October 2014, around 100 people were poisoned in a similar incident. Some blamed the drinking water, but officials at the time claimed the water was clean.