UmphokoqoIt began with school buses rushing vomiting students suffering from food poisoning to area hospitals — that was the scene earlier this week in King Williams Town in South Africa.

Hundreds of grade school students were taken to two provincial hospitals as they experienced stomach aches and vomiting, just after eating their government-provided school lunches. Ambulances, school buses and even taxis were used to get the students to hospitals.

Then it got worse. More than 1,000 students of all ages from as many as 10 schools had to be taken to two provincial hospitals, Bhisho and Gray.

The dramatic event brought out Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle, Health MEC Phumza Dyantyi and Education MEC Mandla Makupula on the following morning to visit casualty wards at the two hospitals where the children were being treated for severe diarrhea.

The food poisoning incident began with hundreds of grade schoolers from the Schornville Primary School in King Williams Town.

On the school lunch menu, according to the Eastern Cape Department of Education, was a “crumbly porridge” known locally as “umphokoqo,” which may have made with “expired sour milk.”

The grade school — with 1,200 students enrolled — has confirmed the students likely suffered from food poisoning and an investigation involving both food and water sources is underway. They hope the investigation will confirm where the food poisoning originated. Samples of sour milk, water and other foods have already been collected by health officials investigating the outbreak.

Students were still being admitted to the two hospitals into the evening hours. One school official said some students began complaining about stomach aches even before going to lunch.

Many parents kept their children home from school on Thursday and schools called for meetings with parents on Friday.

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