Nearly 50 Indonesians dead in April from bootleg liquor

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Nearly 50 people have died in a little more than a week after drinking bootleg liquor in western Indonesia, including Jakarta, the capital, officials said Monday.

In the latest incident, 17 people died between Thursday and early Monday in Cicalengka subdistrict near the West Java capital of Bandung.

Head of the state-run hospital in Cicalengka, Yani Sumpena, said that 16 died at the hospital and one was dead on arrival.

In total, some 40 people were admitted with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and unconsciousness, and 13 are still being treated, Sumpena said.

High taxes on alcohol have spawned a black market for booze among the poor in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, where drinking alcohol is frowned upon but not illegal under civil law. Potentially lethal ingredients, including methanol, are sometimes used in bootleg recipes or added to soft drinks.

Media reports said police had closed four liquor stores in the Cicalengka region and confiscated dozens of jerry cans containing palm wines and hundreds of bottles of various types of liquor.

Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono said Monday that another 31 people have died in Jakarta and its satellite cities of Depok and Bekasi from alcohol poisoning in separate incidents since the beginning of the month.

Police have arrested at least four suspects in the Jakarta area who are accused of selling tainted liquor.

In late March, six people died in Indonesia’s easternmost region of Papua from drinking tainted alcohol.

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