Dozens die in Siberian city after downing bath lotion

Irkutsk is in south Russia in Siberia. Credit: Reuters

At least 48 people have died and a state of emergency has been announced in a Siberian city after locals downed bath lotion.

Russian media reported that nine other people remained in hospital in serious conditions, also suffering alcohol poisoning after consuming the Hawthorn infusion.

Investigators in Irkutsk have arrested several people suspected of involvement in the sales of the lotion as part of a probe into the deaths.

Officials in the city are going house-to-house in search for more victims.

The Russian Government has called for an end to sales of the infusion and similar products containing alcohol, and also called for tighter regulation of the alcohol market in the wake of the deaths.

The sale of lotions and tinctures containing alcohol has been on the rise in Russia in recent years as the country plunged into a recession under the impact of Western sanctions and a drop in oil prices.

Vladimir Putin's spokesperson described the incident as a "terrible tragedy", and said the president is monitoring the situation.

Irkutsk's regional government said the lotion bottles were clearly marked with warnings that the substance was not for internal use.

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev told a cabinet meeting that authorities need to ban such substances.

"It's an outrage, and we need to put an end to this," he said in televised remarks.

Poisonings caused be cheap surrogate alcohol are a regular occurrence in Russia, but the Irkutsk case is unprecedented in its scale.