41 dead in Siberia after drinking toxic bath essence
MOSCOW – Agence France-PresseA Siberian city declared a state of emergency Dec. 19 after 41 people seeking cheap alcohol died from drinking bath essence containing methanol, a toxic substance used in anti-freeze.
The Russian Investigative Committee has launched a probe into the deaths caused by drinking a liquid labelled as hawthorn-scented bath essence, and has detained several people.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the deaths a “tragedy” that required “very close attention.”
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered his cabinet to “sort out” the problem of selling such alcoholic products not intended for drinking - often labelled as cosmetics - to impoverished alcoholics.
Medvedev called the widespread sale of such liquids through vending machines, which takes place in cities including Moscow, “an absolute disgrace.”
Fifty-four people were taken to hospital in the Siberian city of Irkutsk about 4,200 kilometers (2,600 miles) from Moscow after consuming the toxic substance, investigators said.
Local prosecutor Stanislav Zubovsky told Russian agencies that 57 people were known to have consumed the liquid, 41 of whom have died, while the others are in a serious condition.
The official death toll grew by 20 people over the course of a few hours on Dec. 19.
“This figure will grow” as authorities are still searching places where the essence could have been ingested, Zubovsky said, adding that it was sold for 40 rubles (65 US cents) for a 25 ml bottle.
The victims were between 35 and 50 years old, authorities said.