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Originally published on January 7, 2014

Sixteen Indonesians have died and nine are in serious condition after they reportedly drank bootleg alcohol tainted with methanol to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Java, Indonesian police said Monday (January 6).

Police have arrested a couple who they suspect are responsible for making the illegal drink and distributing it to to roadside stalls in the town of Mojokerto in eastern Java.

The locally produced alcohol, believed to be made from palm tree sap or rice, may also contain poisonous methanol, according to Awi Setiyono, police spokesman for East Java province. Setiyono added that those who drank the alcohol to celebrate the New Year began falling ill in the following days. The first death was recorded on Friday.

A total of 16 people have died from consuming the illegal beverage, with nine people in critical condition in local hospitals, Setiyono said.

“We suspect that the drink contains methanol but we can only confirm that after we have the results of laboratory tests,” he said.

According to The Star Online, there have been many previous cases where methanol is added to alcoholic drinks to make them seem stronger. In many cases, the result is fatal for those who consume the beverage.

The Star Online reports, “In 2009, 25 people including four foreigners died after drinking methanol-laced palm wine on the resort island of Bali.

“The small proportion of those who consume alcohol in Muslim-majority Indonesia sometimes opt for homemade drinks, because legally produced alcohol is relatively expensive as it is heavily taxed and much is imported.”

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