Alcohol poisoning deaths rise

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

TALLINN, Estonia -- The death toll from a batch of homemade grain alcohol reached 33 in Estonia on Tuesday, and health officials raised the number of injured to 64 with more deaths expected.

Most victims consumed the poisonous brew, presumably tainted by methanol, last weekend in Parnu, a Baltic Sea resort.

Police believe the victims bought the "salaviin" -- which means "secret vodka" in Estonian -- because it was cheaper than commercial spirits. The home brew costs only about $2 a pint.

The average monthly pay in this former Soviet republic is about $300.

The poisoning of the homemade brew probably occurred inadvertently in the distilling process, police said. Illegal distillers sometimes add methyl alcohol in small quantities to make their brews more potent.

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