PRAGUE: A 63-year-old man died Sunday in the Czech Republic after drinking bootleg spirits tainted with methanol, bringing the death toll from an outbreak of alcohol poisoning to 20, hospital staff said.
The man was found unconscious Friday at a railway station in the eastern town of Prerov and was hospitalized in a very serious condition.
“Despite their efforts, doctors were unable to save him. The man died today a little before noon,” hospital spokeswoman Hana Szotkovska said.
Eastern regions of the country have been hit hardest by what Czech experts describe as the worst wave of alcohol poisoning in three decades, but a first case has also been reported in the capital Prague.
Around 40 people remained in hospital Sunday from the outbreak, which claimed its first two victims on September 6 and prompted the health minister on Friday to ban the sale of liquor with an alcohol content of over 20 percent.
Poland, which borders eastern Czech Republic, on Sunday banned the sale of all alcohol manufactured by its neighbor, except for beer and wine.
Czech police have to date charged 22 people in connection with the case. On Friday, they raided thousands of bars, restaurants and shops across the country for traces of bootleg alcohol.
Czech police chief Martin Cervicek spoke Sunday of progress in the investigation, telling public radio station CRo1 that officers were on the trail of those who may have supplied the material used to manufacture the spirits.
Aside from having the world’s highest per capita beer consumption, the Czechs have the world’s second highest rate of alcohol intake after Moldova, according to a World Health Organization survey for 2011.