Asia-Pacific

Indian brewery owners arrested as death toll from bootleg alcohol rises to 133

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The death toll from people drinking tainted alcohol in India has risen to 133, with a second incident recorded and local brewery owners arrested.

At least 133 people have died and about 225 taken to hospital after drinking tainted liquor in two separate incidents in India's remote northeast, authorities say.

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.

"The death toll has reached 133 in Golaghat and Jorhat districts from the hooch tragedy," Mukesh Agarwala, additional director general of police in Assam state, told reporters on Sunday. 

Assam is India's largest tea-producing state, with more than 1000 plantations producing more than 50 per cent of Indian tea.

More than 100 people have now died from the latest crop of deadly alcohol.
More than 100 people have now died from the latest crop of deadly alcohol.
Getty Images

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 133 by late on Saturday, police and health officials said.

An Indian patient who drank toxic bootleg liquor is treated at Kushal Konwar Civil Hospital in Golaghat district in the northeastern Indian state of Assam.
An Indian patient who drank toxic bootleg liquor is treated at Kushal Konwar Civil Hospita.
Getty Images

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.

Manab Gohain, a doctor at the Jorhat Medical College Hospital, said 34 patients had died in the past 24 hours.

The workers consumed the tainted liquor laced with methyl alcohol, a chemical that attacks the central nervous system.
The workers consumed the tainted liquor laced with methyl alcohol, a chemical that attacks the central nervous system.
Getty Images

The owner of a local brewing unit and 13 others have been arrested, police official Agarwal said. Awarwal 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 manufacture and distribution of the tainted liquor," minister Sharma said.

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

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.

Of the estimated five billion litres of alcohol drunk every year in India, around 40 percent is illegally produced, according to the International Spirits and Wine Association of India. 

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

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