Scores dead in India after consuming toxic liquor in Assam | News | DW | 23.02.2019
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Scores dead in India after consuming toxic liquor in Assam

The victims, who included many women, worked at local tea estates in the northeastern state of Assam. Deaths from toxic alcohol are quite common in India, with many poor people drinking cheap, bad-quality liquor.

Doctors treat patients after toxic liquor poisoning in India (picture-alliance/AP Photo)

At least 200 people are being treated in hospitals

The death toll from the liquor poisoning in India's northeastern Assam state has risen to at least 133.

The owner of a local brewery and 13 more people connected to the manufacture and distribution of the liquor had been detained, local police confirmed Saturday.

At least 200 people were hospitalized after they consumed toxic alcohol on Thursday evening. Officials said that 22 people had already died by Friday evening.

"We've seen people rush their critical relatives to hospitals in auto-rickshaws. It is a horrible, traumatic time," a resident of Assam's Golaghat district told reporters.

"We had repeatedly complained to the local authorities about this illicit liquor business ... but to no avail. There is callous disregard for poor [people's] lives," he added.

Initial investigations revealed that the liquor contained methanol, which could be fatal when consumed in large quantities.

"The people came to the hospital with severe vomiting, extreme chest pain and breathlessness," Ratul Bordoloi, a doctor, said.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has ordered an inquiry, with the state's Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma saying "the perpetrators will not be spared."

Read more: Toxic moonshine kills scores of slum dwellers in India's Mumbai

A common occurrence

Nearly 1,000 people die in the country each year after consuming illegally brewed alcohol, the National Crime Records Bureau data show.

Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India because many poor people cannot afford licensed brands. Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked with chemicals such as pesticides to increase potency.

Earlier this month, more than 70 people died in the northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand after consuming cheap liquor containing poisonous methanol.

shs/jm (AFP, dpa)

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