Ten people have died and at least 14 others have been hospitalised in Buenos Aires Province as a result of cocaine consumption, authorities announced Wednesday.
According to police sources, the fatal victims died from "from cocaine intoxication,” though investigators believe the drug may have been “adulterated” in some form, either laced with a form of poison or some other toxic substance.
The victims, from the districts of Hurlingham, Tres de Febrero and San Martín, were taken to various local hospitals.
At least 13 were sent to the San Bernardino Municipal Hospital in Hurlingham, four of whom later died. Police in San Martín identified the victims as Hernán Castro, 45, Martín López, 36, Dino Melgarejo, 33, and Fernando Yacante, whose age was not disclosed.
By midday, the San Martin Public Prosecutor's Office reported that seven people in total had died, with local reporters confirming an eighth fatality shortly later at the Bocalandro Hospital in Tres de Febrero.
Reports also emerged of other hospitalisations at the Pope Francis Health Centre in Hurlingham and the Eva Perón Hospital in San Martín.
Details remain thin on the ground, but prosecutors believe that the victims all likely purchased cocaine from the same dealer.
One of those who had consumed the drug told police that they had bought cocaine off an individual in the Puerta 8 shantytown in Tres de Febrero, police sources told multiple local outlets.
The substance was subsequently seized by police and it will now be analysed by a laboratory to examine its make-up. Several doses of the drug were also seized for analysis from one of the patients who received hospital treatment.
Meanwhile, local authorities issued a communiqué warning the general public that "it has been determined that a substance marketed as cocaine of extremely high toxicity is in circulation.”
"We still don't have the exact number of patients. We are surveying all the hospitals in the area to centralise all the cases and take urgent measures to identify the origin of the drug, take it out of circulation and alert and prevent further cases," said a judicial spokesman for the San Martin courts.
At least two investigations have been opened, one in San Martín and one in Morón as prosecutors continue gathering evidence.
Buenos Aires Province Security Minister Sergio Berni said Wednesday afternoon that a series of raids had been carried out, with "in which "cocaine was found in similar packages" to those provided by a relative of one of the seven victims."