At least 42 people were killed, more than dozens have been blinded and over hundreds have been sent to the hospital across Iran within a few weeks time because of poisonous batches of bootleg alcohol. According to the country’s Health Ministry, the police have arrested several people in connection with the tainted alcohol.

The police have also raided at least one underground distillery. As per a BBC report, the youngest victim was as old as 19-year-old. The police have been unable to find the poisonous substance that has been brewed with the alcohol. Earlier, authorities used to blame high levels of methanol for the contamination of drinks.

The poisonings have spread from provinces in northeastern Iran and near Tehran to the southern coast. In the past three weeks, as many as 16 people became blind and 170 others were forced to undergo dialysis after drinking the bootleg alcohol, said the government. A total of 460 people were hospitalised as well.

Following the deaths of several people, a number of private clinics and government institutions have opened help desks and special wards for alcoholics. The government has allowed a large and growing network of Alcoholics Anonymous groups, modelled after those in the United States. And the government has tried to combat drunken driving by giving officers breathalyzers and running public campaigns about the dangers.

Dozens of people die from alcohol poisoning every year in Iran, but the death toll in recent weeks was unusually high.