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Mass alcohol poisoning kills 16 as woman arrested for serving homemade booze

At least 16 people have died after drinking homemade alcohol while one woman has been arrested on suspicion of negligent murder.

The victims were all tragically found dead or dying after being taken to hospital in Kaunas, Lithuania.

"Since the beginning of this month, a total of 16 men and women of various ages have died in Kaunas hospitals, possibly from the same alcohol surrogate, most of them residents of the same district," the Kaunas Regional Prosecutor's Office said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Another 2 people are currently being treated by doctors. It is not ruled out that the number of people intoxicated with alcohol may increase further."

A 63-year-old was charged with negligent deprivation of life last week, prosecutors said.

The woman reportedly had prior convictions for illicit trafficking of ethyl alcohol and homemade alcohol, Newsweek reports.

Officers found containers with liquid of an unknown origin during a search of the woman's home.

The items have been seized and taken for further investigation.

"Kaunas Regional Prosecutor's Office is currently carrying out 17 pre-trial investigations, including 16 on the cause of death and another one on negligent deprivation of life," prosecutor Auksė Lipkevičienė from Kaunas Regional Prosecutor's Office said.

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The victims were aged between 30 and 60 years old, according to LRT.

Another individual was suspected of illegal distribution but he died of poisoning on Monday.

Police officers and doctors have warned the local community not to buy or consume alcohol from unknown origins.

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Alcohol surrogates are substances that contain various alcohols and are used to intoxicate, but they very often result in death, according to Jonas Šurkus, a doctor of clinical toxicology at the Nephrology Clinic of Kaunas Clinics.

There are two main groups of alcohol surrogates: those with ethanol, which is known as alcohol, and those without ethanol, like antifreeze and methanol.

"Alcohol poisoning with ethanol is usually not severe," Šurkus told prosecutors.

He added: "However, ethylene glycol and methanol poisoning can be fatal even after timely treatment. Surviving patients may be left with irreversible organ damage, such as kidney failure or blindness"

The toxicologist told the court that he believed the 16 victims were most likely poisoned with methanol.

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