Sunday 24 March 2019

Bootleg alcohol kills 99 and hospitalises 200 on Indian tea plantation

A doctor attends to a victim, who had consumed bootleg liquor, at a hospital in Jorhat in northeastern state of Assam, India. Photo: AP
A doctor attends to a victim, who had consumed bootleg liquor, at a hospital in Jorhat in northeastern state of Assam, India. Photo: AP

Wasbir Hussain

At least 99 people have died and another 200 have been hospitalised after drinking tainted alcohol in yet another incident in India's remote north-east region.

The victims of one of the most deadly bootleg liquor-related incidents ever in India were mostly tea plantation workers in Assam state.

The workers drank the tainted liquor laced with methyl alcohol, a chemical that attacks the central nervous system, last Thursday and started falling unconscious.

The victims were rushed to nearby hospitals and the death toll yesterday rose to 99.

The local police superintendent said officers had found the home where the toxic liquor was made and had recovered one-and-a-half litres of it.

Doctors at the hospitals where the victims are being treated are baffled by the ingredients used in the illegal alcohol, which is causing organ failure. "The people came to the hospital with severe vomiting, extreme chest pain and breathlessness," said one doctor.

Deaths from illegally produced alcohol, which is much cheaper than branded spirits, are common in parts of rural India. Bootleggers often add methanol - a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an anti-freeze - to their mixture to increase its strength. If ingested in large quantities, methanol can cause blindness, liver damage and death.

Assam's health minister said around 200 people who fell sick after drinking the toxic liquor were in hospital, some in a critical condition.

About 80 people died from tainted bootleg liquor in Uttar Pradesh earlier this month.

The death tolls from those two incidents are believed to be the highest since a 2011 case in West Bengal when more than 170 people died after ingesting bootleg alcohol.

Sunday Independent

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