Iran's state-run news agency says 10 people have died from tainted alcohol in northwestern Azarbaijan province while 240 were hospitalized.

IRNA says the alcohol poisoning took place over the past six weeks in the city of Tabriz.

Hodjat Pourfathi, an official with the Health Ministry, is quoted as saying three of the victims were blinded and several were in a coma. He says the fatalities are likely to rise.

IRNA reported 31 deaths from tainted alcohol last October, most of them in southern Hormozgan province.

At the time, the agency said that as the nation's currency plummets against the dollar and the price of liquor rises, consumers increasingly turn to home-made alcohol.

In Iran, drinking alcohol is considered sinful and punishable by flogging and cash fines under Islamic law.