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Foreigners dead after drinking poisonous rice wine
Holidaymakers in Bali have been given a grim warning: avoid traditional rice and palm wine on the Indonesian resort island or face an agonising death. At least 25 people have been killed in the past week, including four foreign tourists, after a batch of the liquor, known as arak, was heavily cut with methanol.

The foreigners included two English nationals, a Dutchman and a well-known US artist. Dozens more are recovering after being seriously poisoned. The head of Bali's tourism board, Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya, yesterday warned people planning holiday trips in coming weeks to stick to officially sanctioned drinks. "For the time being I would say only consume alcohol that has been guaranteed by the Government," he said.

Mr Wijaya predicted the deaths could have a major effect on Bali's tourism industry, which has lately recovered to record levels from the terrorism-induced slump of recent years. "This has become a national issue now, and it's not even just tourists who drink arak but also some people who've lived here for a long time on small incomes, as well as budget travellers who like to try it," Mr Wijaya said.

The brew, made from fermented rice, palm sap, corn or other base ingredients, is a traditional drink for many Balinese, often used in religious ceremonies. However, it has become especially popular after an Indonesian government crackdown on imported alcohol, with a 500 per cent liquor excise putting regular spirits and wine out of many people's budgets.

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