MORE THAN 100 DIED AFTER DRINKING POISONOUS LIQUOR IN NORTHERN INDIA
By Susan Lewis
At least 105 people died in two states in Northern India after drinking illegally produced spirits, in the worst such case since 2011.
At least 36 people died in Haridwar in Uttarkhand state and around 18 people are undergoing treatment in hospital. Officials in Uttar Pradesh state could not be reached for latest casualty figures today, but at least 69 people have died in the state, according to newspapers Indian Express and Times of India.
Many of those who died in Haridwar and two districts in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh complained of stomach pains and respiratory problems, according to relatives and officials.
Deaths from illegally produced spirits, known locally as "hooch" or "country liquor", are a regular occurrence in India because many cannot afford branded spirits.
But the current outbreak is believed to be the deadliest since a similar case killed 172 in West Bengal in 2011. Another similar outbreak in 2015 killed 102 people in slum in Mumbai.
Police are suspecting the illegal liquor had been cut with methanol, a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an anti-freeze, to increase its strength. If ingested in large quantities, methanol can cause blindness, liver damage and death.
Local newspaper reports said around 3,000 people linked with the illegal liquor trade have been arrested across Uttar Pradesh in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Unconfirmed reports also said that police crackdowns have resulted in the seizure of 9,269 litres of illegal spirits in Uttar Pradesh and 1,066 litres in Uttarakhand.
According to the International Spirits and Wine Association of India, of the estimated 5 billion litres of alcohol drunk every year in India, around 40 percent is illegally produced.
(the writer can be contacted at: SusanLewis@thewinechronicle.com)
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