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Death toll at 156 in India's toxic liquor tragedy

China Daily | Updated: 2019-02-25 09:21

A patient who drank toxic bootleg liquor is treated at a hospital in Golaghat, India, on Saturday. DAVID TALUKDAR/AFP

GAUHATI, India - At least 156 people have died and more than 225 people have been hospitalized after drinking tainted liquor in two separate incidents in India's remote northeast, authorities said on Sunday.

The victims of one of the most deadly bootleg liquor-related incidents in India were mostly tea plantation workers in Golaghat and Jorhat districts in Assam state, said top police official Mukesh Agarwal.

Assam is India's largest tea-producing state, with more than 1,000 plantations producing more than 50 percent of Indian tea.

The workers consumed the tainted liquor laced with methyl alcohol, a chemical that attacks the central nervous system, on Thursday and started falling unconscious.

They were rushed to nearby hospitals and the death toll rose to 156 by early Sunday, police and health officials said.

Himanta Biswa Sharma, Assam's health minister, said about 200 people who fell sick after drinking the toxic liquor are in hospitals, some in critical condition.

Officials said 50 patients prior died in the past 24 hours.

The owner of a local brewing unit and 13 others have been arrested, police official Agarwal said.

Agarwal said police are pursuing other people believed to be connected to the racket as part of an ongoing investigation.

"We shall not spare anyone involved in the manufacture and distribution of the tainted liquor," minister Sharma said.

Locals vandalized home of one of the arrested. Authorities collected samples for the medical tests.

Meanwhile, a massive crackdown has been launched in Assam to check manufacturing of illicit liquor in the aftermath of the tragedy.

According to the state officials, a large number of illicit liquor manufacturing units have been identified and raided over the past 24 hours and at least 15,000 liters of liquor have been destroyed.

Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India because the poor cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops. Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked to increase potency.

In India's Uttar Pradesh state earlier this month, about 80 people died from tainted bootleg liquor.

In December 2011, a hooch tragedy killed 172 people in the eastern state of West Bengal.

AP - Xinhua - AFP

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