Over 40 Christians died and dozens more were sickened in a small city in Pakistan after drinking toxic alcohol on Christmas, officials said on Tuesday.

At least 60 people fell ill from the alcohol during celebrations on Sunday in the city, Toba Tek Singh, in Punjab Province, and dozens were taken to a nearby hospital, officials said. Almost 50 people were later brought to a hospital in Faisalabad, the closest major city, for treatment.

By Tuesday, the death toll had reached 39, Atif Imran Qureshi, a police official in Toba Tek Singh, said in a phone interview according to source.

The sale of alcohol is restricted in Pakistan, but non-Muslims and foreigners can get permits from the provincial and federal authorities to consume it.

Most residents of the Mubarakabad neighborhood of Toba Tek Singh, where the alcohol was consumed, are Christians, a minority in Pakistan. Members of the local Christian community mostly do menial jobs and are unable to afford licensed alcohol.

On Sunday evening, as Christmas celebrations were underway, alcohol was served, and many people became sick.

“We are still investigating what kind of drink it was,” Mr. Qureshi said. “We didn’t find any bottles, but it would most probably be homemade liquor.”

Despite the countrywide restrictions, alcohol is easily available, and a large number of Muslims also indulge in it. Business is booming for Murree Brewery, Pakistan’s only brewery, which reported a profit this year.

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