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Dozens die of alcohol poisoning after consuming bath lotion

At least 48 people have died from alcohol poisoning in a Siberian city after consuming bath lotion, prompting local officials to introduce a state of emergency.

The Russian government has also called for tighter regulation of the alcohol market in the wake of the tragedy in Irkutsk.

Investigators have arrested several people suspected of involvement in the sales of the lotion as part of a probe into the deaths.

Vladimir Putin's spokesman described the incident as a "terrible tragedy", and said the president is monitoring the situation.

The sale of lotions and tinctures containing alcohol has been on the rise in recent years as Russia has plunged into recession under the impact of Western sanctions and a slide in oil prices. Poisonings caused by cheap surrogate alcohol are a regular occurrence, but the Irkutsk case is unprecedented in its scale.

Officials in Irkutsk are going house-to-house in search for more victims.

Irkutsk's regional government said the victims had died of methanol poisoning after consuming the bath lotion. They added the lotion bottles were clearly marked with warnings that the substance was not for internal use.

The death toll has been growing quickly since the weekend, and reached 48, local prosecutor Stanislav Zubovsky said, according to Russian news agencies. He said that nine others remain in hospital in a grave condition, and officials are checking other locations in search for more victims.

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev told a cabinet meeting that authorities need to ban such substances.

"It's an outrage, and we need to put an end to this," he said in televised remarks.

AP

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