Nine people are dead in Guangzhou, the capital of south China's Guangdong Province, from drinking liquor that contained methanol.
Another 33 are in the Guangzhou No. 12 People's Hospital, including four in critical condition. Six others remain seriously ill.
All fell ill after drinking liquor bought from small vendors, according to Guangzhou municipal government officials.
"Tests showed methanol in the patients' blood," said Jiang Chaoqiang, president of the Guangzhou Municipal No 12 People's Hospital.
Methanol poisoning can be fatal, causing serious damage to the liver and kidneys, and can lead to blindness and other maladies.
The first two alcohol deaths were reported in the city's Baiyun District on Tuesday and two more on the following day.
Local police have detained a dozen people, all suspected of blending methanol with rice liquor and selling the tainted drink to local markets and stalls. Two other suspects are still at large.
Some 1,200 kilograms of the toxic liquor have been discovered in a sweep of Baiyun District in the past week. On Saturday alone, 444 kilograms of the wine were found, produced under three fake liquor labels.
Another batch about 150 kilograms was transported to Tianhe District. Some was withheld from the market while some has already been sold, municipal officials said.
Inspectors sent by the Guangzhou Municipal Quality Inspection and Supervision Bureau have found other such winemakers in the Zengcheng and Panyu districts of Guangzhou and in Boluo District of Huizhou.
A comprehensive quality inspection campaign has been launched.
The hospital said that most of the patients are immigrant workers from neighboring Hunan and Jiangxi provinces.
(China Daily May 17, 2004)