Methyl alcohol poisoning stemming from bootleg liquor claimed more lives over the weekend across the country. With nine more deaths on Saturday and Sunday, the total number of deaths since the first cases on Oct. 9, reached 80.
The highest number was in the western province of Izmir. Seven people died there over the weekend while two others died in southern Mersin province and the northern province of Samsun. Overall, Izmir has the most victims at 35 followed by Istanbul with 10 victims. Other casualties are in Aydın and Muğla in western Turkey, the central province of Kırıkkale, northwestern provinces of Kırklareli and Tekirdağ and northern provinces of Zonguldak, Trabzon and Samsun.
Security forces, meanwhile, stepped up operations against producers and sellers of bootleg liquor. Since the first deaths, 471 suspects have been detained by police and gendarmerie across the country and 95 of them were remanded in custody. Authorities also seized a large amount of bootleg alcohol and equipment used in its production. Over the past two days alone, tons of bootleg drinks were seized in operations across Turkey.
Bootleg alcohol made with methyl alcohol instead of ethyl alcohol causes serious harm to human health, as well as deaths. Illegally produced liquor is often laced with methanol, which can cause permanent blindness, metabolic disturbances and death. However, using ethyl alcohol produced for other uses in beverages, instead of the regular process of obtaining alcohol through fermentation, also causes serious health problems.
Local authorities vowed to step up inspections against bootleg alcohol production in a country where alcoholic beverages are subject to high taxes like tobacco products.
No exact figures are available, but media reports show some deaths stemmed from drinks sold by liquor stores illegally branding them as legal. Others originated from drinks purchased directly from illegal breweries and drinks victims made at home without proper recipes and miscalculating the amount of harmful content used in brewing.