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Ecuador tries to buy up contaminated alcohol; 48 die

Image: People intoxicated from tainted alcohol, lie in bed at the general hospital in Ricaurte, Ecuador
People intoxicated from tainted alcohol lie in bed at the general hospital in Ricaurte, Ecuador, on July 18, 2011.-- / AFP - Getty Images file
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Ecuadorean authorities are trying to buy back half a million bottles of contaminated alcohol and end an outbreak of alcohol poisoning that has killed 48 people and sickened hundreds.

The country's health minister said the liquor was tainted with methanol, or wood alcohol, which is used for industrial purposes.

The buyback offer involves 14 brands of wine and other alcohol that stores have been barred from selling since July.

More than 500 people have been injured by the contaminated alcohol, with some left permanently blinded.

The alcohol came from small provincial providers that didn't have the required health permits.

Ecuador's government has set aside some $400,000 to buy back the alcohol at 80 cents a bottle.

Police have captured those they believe were behind the distribution of the dangerous alcohol, according to inforbae.com, a Spanish-language news website.

About 600 barrels of adulterated alcohol were also taken into custody, infobae reported.