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MOSCOW – The death toll from a mass illegal alcohol-related poisoning in southwestern Russia rose to 34 on Sunday, and 24 more people were being treated at the hospital, local authorities said.

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Investigators in the Orenburg region opened criminal cases after people began dying of alcohol poisoning this week. Since then, police have detained 10 people in investigations into the production and sale of illegal alcohol, the TASS news agency reported.

“There are 67 known victims of alcohol substitute in the region, 34 of whom have died,” the Orenburg local government was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Seven of the people being treated at the hospital were in poor condition and four of them were on ventilators, he said.

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Police seized 2,000 bottles of alcohol on Saturday and said they had identified methanol, which is toxic.

Massive cases of alcohol poisoning have shocked the country in the past. In 2016, 77 people died in Siberia from drinking bath oil mixed with methylated alcohol in pursuit of alcoholic highs.

Russians have long had a reputation for being some of the world’s heavy drinkers, but consumption has been declining in recent years, dropping 43% between 2003 and 2016, the World Health Organization said in 2019.

That has led to a rapid increase in life expectancy, he added.

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