Page last updated at 17:05 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 18:05 UK

More alcohol deaths in Indonesia

An Indonesian bar tender reaches to serve a drink.
Imported alcohol in Indonesia is often expensive, and hard to find

Four foreigners have died of alcohol poisoning in recent days in Indonesia.

This brings to at least 23 the total number of such deaths over the past two weeks in Bali and Lombok.

Victims are said to have drunk arak, a rice or palm wine, tainted with methanol. More than 50 foreigners and local people have been taken ill.

Imported alcohol is expensive in Indonesia, with the government imposing taxes of up to 400%. So local brews have become increasingly popular.

The latest death was that of British-born Rose Johnson - an artist living the US city of Phoenix, Arizona. She was on holiday in Bali.

A British man died of alcohol poisoning in Bali on Saturday, and a couple - a Dutch man and his Irish partner - died on the island of Lombok over the weekend.

Short supply

It is believed the victims may have all drunk from the same batch of tainted arak. The local police are investigating, and say they have questioned two suspects.

Alcohol has been in short supply in Indonesia, after the government moved to stop illegal imports.

This left just one legitimate importer, which has been unable to meet demand.

So arak, a traditional drink in Bali, has become increasingly popular. Many small factories have sprung up in recent years to supply local shops, bars and roadside stalls.

Methanol, also known as wood alcohol, is used in rural Indonesia as a fuel for lanterns. Even a tiny amount in the human body is highly dangerous.

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