AT LEAST 155 DIED IN INDIA IN THE SECOND LIQUOR POISONING OUTBREAK IN TWO WEEKS
By Susan Lewis
At least 155 people have died and more than 200 hospitalized in Northeastern Assam state of India in the second outbreak of liquor poisoning in two weeks, after more than 100 were killed in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand states earlier this month.
The Indian NDTV channel reported that all victims are tea plantation workers and 15,000 liters of illegal liquor has been seized by police.
Thirty four people have been arrested for suspected involvement in supplying the illegal liquor and others are being investigated, according to the international news channel CNN.
"It is illicit liquor that was brewed locally. We are still investigating what was the composition and what was mixed in the alcohol," said Mukesh Agarwal, a senior police official in Golaghat district in Assam state.
“We suspect those who drank the liquor were poisoned by the methanol that was added to the mixture," he added.
Some of the victims started falling ill last Thursday and were rushed to local hospitals by the dozens. Their symptoms included intense stomach pain, sudden blindness, vomiting and heart failure.
"I had bought half a liter of wine (liquor) and drank it before eating. Initially, everything was normal, but after some time my head started hurting," one hospitalized tea plantation worker told the BBC. "The headache grew so much that I could not eat or sleep."
The state of Assam has opened an investigation. Investigators are scrambling to trace batches of the liquor that may have been sold at several different roadside stands or markets.
Assam is famous for tea plantations. It's the largest tea-growing state in India, with thousands of plantations that grow more than half of the tea produced in India.
These plantations employ millions of workers, most of the them are on very low salary and cannot afford to buy branded liquors.
Deaths from illegally distilled liquor are common in India, but this month's outbreaks are the deadliest in several years.
(the writer can be contacted at: SusanLewis@thewinechronicle.com)
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