Ecuador is buying all the booze they can get to stop the outbreak of bootleg alcohol that has killed 48 people and sickened hundreds.

Authorities are trying to buy back half a million bottles of the contaminated homemade aguardiente liquor.

The country's health minister, David Chiriboga, says the homemade alcohol is 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.

Chiriboga told the public that if they experience such symptoms as nausea, vomiting, bodily pain, affected eyesight, convulsions, changes in mental function or gasping for breath, they should go without delay to the nearest hospital or clinic.

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

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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