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Tainted moonshine kills at least 5 in Czech Republic

PRAGUE -- At least five people have died in the Czech Republic and at least 13 others have been hospitalized after drinking bootleg vodka and rum containing methanol, police said Tuesday, in the worst case of fatal alcohol poisoning in the country in at least 30 years.

While cases like this are rare in the central European state of 10.5 million, state and industry officials estimate illegal liquor sales are up and account for 10-20 percent of the market.

Police spokeswoman Sona Stetinska said more cases could emerge after the first victim was admitted to hospital last Thursday, Reuters reported.

The fourth and fifth victims died Tuesday in Prerov, about 180 miles east of Prague, Reuters said. Three others had died in the neighboring Moravian-Silesian region in the northeast of the country over the weekend.

Police have detained a 36-year-old man suspected of being the source of the tainted liquor.

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The Health Ministry stepped up checks on restaurants and bars on Tuesday after some of the suspect alcohol turned up in Prague. A ministry spokesman was not available to comment, Reuters reported.

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