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CZECH REPUBLIC

Bad booze kills 19, injures 24

PRAGUE — At least 19 people are dead and 24 others hospitalized. Some of them have been blinded, while others have been induced into comas in the hope that doctors can save them.

All drank cheap vodka and rum laced with methanol, a toxic substance used to stretch alcohol on the black market and guarantee high profits for manufacturers.

The Czech Republic announced emergency measures Wednesday as the death toll from the methanol poisoning mounted, including two women aged 28 and 21.

Kiosks and markets were banned from selling spirits with more than 30 percent alcohol content, and police raided outlets nationwide. At 410 sites, they found 70 cases of illegal alcohol.

Prime Minister Petr Necas called on all Czechs to refrain from drinking “any alcohol whose origin is uncertain,” but authorities still feared the death toll will rise.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports