ANKARA, Turkey -- At least 22 people have died in Istanbul and 16 others have been hospitalized and are in serious condition after drinking bootleg alcohol, the local governor’s office said Friday, as authorities intensified a crackdown on counterfeit drinks across Turkey ahead of New Year's celebrations.
Eleven of the dead, and five of those who had fallen ill were foreign nationals, the Istanbul governor’s office said in a statement. It didn't elaborate or provide details on the victims’ nationalities.
Four suspects have been arrested in connection with the deaths, the statement said.
On Thursday, the state-run Anadolu Agency said 26 people were killed in the past four days from methanol alcohol poisoning in nine Turkish provinces, including Istanbul.
Authorities have launched a nationwide operation to crackdown on bootleg alcohol production, conducting raids on about 300 locations and seizing thousands of liters of counterfeit alcohol, the report said. At least 85 suspects were detained.
Deaths from bootleg alcohol aren't uncommon in Turkey where people, faced with ever-climbing alcoholic beverage prices, seek to buy cheaper drinks or turn to homemade booze. Rising inflation and the government’s taxes and regulation of alcohol consumption have thrust alcohol prices to all-time highs.