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7 Iranians dead, more than 300 sick after drinking homemade alcohol

Seven people are dead, several are blind and more than 300 are sick, after apparently ingesting illegally distilled alcohol in the southern Iranian city of Rafsanjan.  

Local hospitals were filled with patients complaining of vision loss and other symptoms consistent with alcohol poisoning, according to a New York Times report.  

The victims were all young men. “All those who died were men under the age of 27,” said Dr. Hamid Najmedin of the Rafsanjan Medical Science University, the Ebtekarnews website reported Sunday.

Seventy-five patients in Rafsanjan and 109 sickened in other parts of Kerman province underwent dialysis, but were later released from the hospital, the Associated Press reported.

Local doctors say the victims drank concoctions containing high levels of methanol — a simple alcohol used as an antifreeze and also for biofuels — mixed with energy drinks.

Alcohol is strictly forbidden and considered a sin in Iran, and violators face a lashing, according to Iran’s Islamic laws. Those who abuse alcohol can even be put to death in Iran.

Despite the risks, some Iranians smuggle in large amounts of foreign alcohol and make their own version of vodka, known as arak sagi, or dog sweat.

A bottle of smuggled vodka on the black market can cost as much as $28, the Times reports, while the locally made product sells for about a-third less.

Government policies and international economic sanctions have driven up prices of all products-- including smuggled alcohol-- forcing many Iranians to buy homemade liquor or make their own.

In the past seven months the number of deaths related to bad alcohol has more than doubled, the semiofficial Mehr news agency has reported.

It’s unclear whether those poisoned by the illegal alcohol will be punished.

Click for more from the New York Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.