Estonian bad-alcohol deaths still rising

Associated Press

TALLINN, Estonia — Several people who drank from a tainted batch of homemade alcohol despite public warnings have died, raising the toll from the black-market beverage to 51, police said Thursday.

At least 85 people remained hospitalized, and the death toll was expected to rise, police said.

All cases were linked to the same batch of alcohol, police spokesman Indrek Raudjalg said. Most victims drank it over the weekend in or near Parnu, a seaside resort 75 miles south of the capital, Tallinn.

However, Raudjalg said several drank it and became ill this week, even after television and radio stations broadcast dire warnings.

Authorities said tests were being conducted to confirm the deadly ingredient was methanol, also called methyl or wood alcohol, which is sometimes used by illegal distilleries to increase the potency of their liquor or added by mistake.

Police have raided scores of illegal distilleries — which produce a third of all alcohol sold in this former Soviet republic of 1.4 million people — seizing thousands of quarts of homemade alcohol.

Of 11 people detained for questioning, two were released. Police said the rest could be charged with manslaughter, with each count carrying a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

Police believe the victims bought the illegal alcohol because at about $2 a pint, it was cheaper than commercial brands sold in licensed stores.

Methanol, used in making antifreeze, formaldehyde or industrial solvents, is blamed for hundreds of deaths and injuries around the world every year around the world. It can cause permanent blindness.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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