Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian authorities are trying to find the cause of death of a dozen indigenous people in an isolated village in the Kelantan state.
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said on Monday authorities were trying to locate the graves of 12 of the 14 indigenous people of the Batek tribe who had died past month. Of these, two deaths were due to pneumonia.
He said exhuming bodies for post-mortem was vital to determine the actual cause of death and whether the mystery illness had infected others in the village as well, state news agency Bernama reported.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department P Waytha Moorthy on Sunday confirmed 14 deaths. A total of 83 inhabitants of the village were being treated, with 46 of them in hospitals, he added.
Reports of the deaths had surfaced last week, when the head of the village, where the indigenous tribe lived, claimed that mining had contaminated the water source, which were leading to illness and death.
Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail in a statement warned that the government would punish the company, found to have had contaminated the source of drinking water used by the indigenous people.
Malaysia has 18 officially recognised indigenous tribes with the Batek tribe being one the smallest group with less than 2,000 population.