Toxic batch of moonshine kills 36 people in India with dozens more seriously ill

Toxic batch of moonshine kills 36 people in India with dozens more seriously ill

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At least 36 people have died and over a dozen are in critical condition after drinking illegally brewed liquor in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

A total of 109 people were hospitalised in Kallakurichi district, local official M S Prasanth told the Press Trust of India news agency.

He added that the number of those who are in critical condition keeps changing, suggesting that the death toll could rise. Ambulances, doctors and specialists from nearby areas have been deployed to the district.

The men were rushed to the hospital after they experienced giddiness, headache, vomiting and nausea after consuming the liquor on Tuesday. They are receiving treatment at Kallakurichi Government Medical College, JIPMER Puducherry and Salem Government Hospital.

Expressing his shock over the incident, the state’s chief minister M K Stalin said those “involved in the crime” had been arrested.

“Action has also been taken against the officials who failed to prevent it. Immediate action will be taken if the public informs [us] about those involved in such crimes. Such crimes that ruin the society will be suppressed with an iron fist.”

Police have arrested four men following the incident and seized 200 litres of liquor. According to investigators, the man suspected of brewing the unlicensed liquor used methanol in the mix, reported the News Minute.

Family members weep near the dead bodies of victims who died after consuming toxic illegal alcohol in Kallakurichi district of India’s Tamil Nadu state on 20 June 2024
Family members weep near the dead bodies of victims who died after consuming toxic illegal alcohol in Kallakurichi district of India’s Tamil Nadu state on 20 June 2024 (AFP via Getty Images)

Relatives of the victims accused the police of being complicit, saying that they knew about the sale of illicit liquor the area.

“If someone complains, they will stop for 10 days but resume again. If a person complains, the police will tip the peddler off on who raised the complaint and immediately, that person is threatened by the peddlers,” said a family member of an unnamed victim.

The sale of “illicit liquor is so rampant that even 13 and 15-year-old” boys are sold it in packets, said the relative.

This is not the first time that India has reported deaths from illegally brewed alcohol, a common practice in a country with several states where alcohol is banned, and others where poor people struggle to afford licensed brands from government-run shops.

In May 2023 at least 22 people died in an incident in the districts of Chengalpattu and Villupuram in Tamil Nadu.

In 2022, over 30 people died in the dry state of Bihar state after allegedly drinking tainted liquor. The same year, at least 46 people died and close to 100 others were rushed to the hospital after drinking spurious alcohol in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

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