The Czech Republic has announced a state of emergency, saying that at least 15 people are dead and 24 have been hospitalized after drinking cheap vodka and rum laced with methanol.

The toxic substance is used to stretch alcohol on the black market and guarantees high profits for its manufacturers.

Police say they have raided 410 kiosks and markets nationwide, finding about 70 of them that were selling illegal alcohol.

Some of the victims have been blinded. Others have been induced into comas in the hope that doctors can save them.

Prime Minister Petr Necas has called on all Czechs to refrain from drinking "any alcohol whose origin is uncertain."