Tehran, Iran – The number of deaths of people who drank poisoned homemade alcohol in southern Iran rose to 10 and several more were in critical condition.
Nine men and one woman have died in the coastal city of Bandar Abbas and 19 more have been hospitalised with four in critical condition, Fatemeh Nowruzian, spokeswoman of Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences, told the semi-official Tasnim news website on Sunday.
Nowruzian added 75 people were taken to hospitals with signs of alcohol poisoning so far, of whom 45 had to undergo dialysis and four suffered vision impairment.
Police announced earlier this month eight people were arrested on suspicion of producing and distributing alcohol after it was found in their homes during searches.
Producing, selling, and consuming alcohol is strictly forbidden in Iran – with some exceptions for religious minorities – and those caught with it face the punishment of flogging.
Those who drink it have suffered blindness or major organ damage because of poisoning from unsafe homemade alcohol over the years.
Nowruzian did not identify the toxic substance that caused the most recent deaths. In the past, people have died because of lethal levels of methanol added to homemade beverages.
Used in making anti-freeze, solvents and fuel, methanol is colourless and odourless, and is sometimes added by bootleggers to their concoctions to increase alcohol content. But it can cause organ damage, blindness, and ultimately death even in little amounts.
In 2020, during the COVID pandemic, Iran saw an enormous number of alcohol poisonings with more than 700 people dying from drinking methanol, because they mistakenly thought it would help kill the coronavirus. Dozens more were blinded at the time.