India bootleg alcohol death toll tops 100

 

A tainted batch of bootleg alcohol has killed at least 102 people and sent dozens more to hospital in villages outside the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, officials said.

Day labourers and other poor workers began falling ill late on Tuesday after drinking the brew that was laced with methanol around the village of Sangrampur, about 20 miles south of Kolkata, according to district magistrate Narayan Swarup Nigam.

Police arrested four people in connection with making and distributing the toxic booze, said police official Surajit Kar Purkayastha.

Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of the state of West Bengal, promised a crackdown.

"I want to take strong action against those manufacturing and selling illegal liquor," she said. "But this is a social problem also, and this has to be dealt with socially also along with action."

The deaths came days after more than 90 people were killed in a hospital fire in nearby Kolkata that led to the arrest of the facility's directors for culpable homicide.

The latest tragedy began when groups of poor labourers finished work and bought cheap homemade booze for about 10 rupees (12p) per half litre, less than a third of the price of legal alcohol.

The men were drinking along the roadside near the railway station when they began vomiting, suffering piercing headaches and frothing at the mouth, Mr Nigam said.

Furious villagers ransacked the illegal alcohol shops.

Cheap bootleg liquor kills dozens of people every year in India. In 2009, at least 112 people died from a toxic brew in western India.

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