PRAGUE, Sept 12 The Czech government banned hard liquor sales by street vendors on Wednesday after a sixteenth person died from drinking bootleg vodka and rum containing methanol in the country's worst case of alcohol-related deaths in decades.
The government has imposed the ban indefinitely on the market stalls and street kiosks, which have licences to sell hard liquor. They are common in some Czech towns and often sell vodka, rum and whisky in tiny plastic cups as well as sandwiches and other food.
Such a large number of alcohol-related deaths are rare in the central European state of 10.5 million, although state and industry officials have estimated that illegal alcohol sales have been on the increase and account for 10-20 percent of the market.
Eight more deaths were reported on Wednesday. At least 24 remain in hospital, police spokeswoman Stepanka Zatloukalova said.
Police took a 36-year old man into custody on suspicion of distributing tainted liquor in the Moravian-Silesian region, 350 km (217 miles) east of Prague, where the first deaths happened at the weekend.
A second man was also detained in Zlin, a neighbouring region.
The Health Ministry has carried out 410 checks in bars and restaurants in nine out of the country's 14 regions. It found 70 cases where liquor did not have proper documentation, s uch as a customs or tax stamp, government spokesman Michal Schuster said. (Reporting by Robert Mueller and Jana Mlcochova; Writing by Jason Hovet. Editing by Jane Merriman)