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Hundreds get food poisoning at Imelda Marcos' 90th birthday party

An attendee (in red) is checked by medical personnel after she fell ill with suspected food poisoning from meals served during a birthday celebration in honour of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos, at a sports arena in Manila on July 3, 2019.

[MANILA] About 260 people were sent to hospitals Wednesday after they apparently fell ill from food poisoning during the 90th birthday celebration of Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines, health workers said.

The patients "suffered from vomiting and dizziness," said Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, which deployed emergency teams to a sports complex east of Manila where the party was held.

Mr Gordon, who is also a Philippine senator, said hundreds of the estimated 2,000 people at the event apparently became ill after eating meat stew and eggs.

He posted pictures on his Twitter account showing Red Cross teams in orange vests responding to the emergency.

Mrs Marcos' eldest daughter, Imee Marcos, 63, who took office as a senator this week, said, "The food may have been spoiled, but we remain solid."

Imelda Marcos is the widow of Ferdinand Marcos, the former strongman who died in exile in Hawaii three years after the 1986 "people power" revolt ended his two-decade rule. During the Marcos dictatorship, the couple were believed to have plundered the government treasury of up to US$10 billion, and thousands of activists who opposed his rule were either killed or went missing.

Only a small fraction of that wealth has been recovered, and President Rodrigo Duterte said two years ago that the Marcos family had approached him and said they were willing to return some of the money, without admitting that they were guilty of any crimes.

Mr Duterte, who took power in 2016, has been a supporter of the Marcoses and has said the former dictator's family contributed to his campaign. In return, he kept his promise to the family to rebury the remains of Ferdinand Marcos in Manila's heroes' cemetery, igniting protests.

The dictator's son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, a former senator, ran for vice president in 2016 but lost. However, the family's political fortunes have risen with the recent election of Imee Marcos as a senator, while several other family members took control of elective posts in the family's northern hometown.

Imelda Marcos is widely known for her extravagance, and she gained notoriety for her collection of thousands of shoes, which was discovered when the public stormed the presidential palace as the Marcoses fled 33 years ago. In November, a Philippine court sentenced her to more than 40 years in prison for creating private foundations to hide her wealth. She remains free despite a court warrant for her arrest.