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Toxic homemade alcohol kills 102 in India

Four people have been arrested after bootleg liquor was blamed for the deaths and illness in Sangrampur, near Calcutta.

Image: (UB) Sean R via Creative Commons

A TAINTED batch of bootleg liquor killed 102 people and sent dozens more to the hospital in villages outside the eastern Indian city of Calcutta (Kolkata), officials said.

Day labourers and other poor workers began falling ill late Tuesday after drinking the brew that was laced with toxic methanol around the village of Sangrampur, about 30km south of Calcutta, according to district magistrate Narayan Swarup Nigam.

“It’s a very sad thing that this has happened. Why don’t the police stop this? I cannot understand? What connection do they have?” said Anwar Hassan Mullah, who brought six people from his village to the hospital. All of them died, Mullah told NDTV news channel.

Police arrested four people in connection with making and distributing the methanol-spiked booze, said police official Surajit Kar Purkayastha. Highly toxic methanol can be used as a fuel, solvent and anti-freeze.


By this morning the death toll had skyrocketed to 102, and dozens more remained hospitalised, Nigam said.

Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of the state of West Bengal, promised a crackdown.

“I want to take strong action against those manufacturing and selling illegal liquor,” she said, according to Press Trust of India. “But this is a social problem also, and this has to be dealt with socially also along with action.”

The deaths came just days after more than 90 people were killed in a hospital fire in Calcutta that led to the arrest of the facility’s directors for culpable homicide.

The latest tragedy began Tuesday night when groups of poor labourers finished work and bought some cheap homemade booze for about 10 rupees a half litre – less than one-third the price of legal alcohol.

The men were drinking along the roadside near the railway station, when they began vomiting, suffering piercing headaches and frothing at the mouth, Nigam said.

Arman Seikh, 23-years-old, rushed his brother-in-law to the hospital.

“He complained of burning chest and severe stomach pain last night,” he told The Associated Press.

Furious villagers ransacked the illegal alcohol shops.

Bootleg liquor kills dozens of people every year in India. In 2009, at least 112 people died from a toxic brew in western India.

Despite religious and cultural taboos against drinking among Indians, 5 percent — roughly 60 million people, the population of France — are alcoholics. Two-thirds of the alcohol consumed in the country is illegal hooch made in remote villages or undocumented liquor smuggled in, according to The Lancet.

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Associated Press

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