Death Toll From Toxic Liquor Hits 170 in Eastern India
12/17/11voa

Police are raiding illegal distilleries in eastern India, where the number of people who have died after drinking toxic home-brewed liquor has reached 170.

At least 90 others in the Sangrampur area of West Bengal state remain critically ill.

Local officials say 12 people have been arrested so far for allegedly making and distributing the tainted liquor, but police on Friday were still looking for the kingpin of the operation.

Most of the victims were day laborers and other poor workers who bought cheap alcohol from bootleggers late Tuesday.

Amina Bibi, the wife of one of the victims, explained how her husband was taken to a hospital after complaining of feeling sick the morning after coming home drunk.

“Yesterday my husband got drunk and came home. I had told him not to indulge in it. In the morning, he complained that he was not feeling well. We told him that he would be taken to a hospital since others are also facing the same problem. I had then wanted him to be admitted in a nursing home, but I was told the hospital was good in giving out treatments.''

Authorities were also working to determine the chemical ingredients in the liquor, with officials saying that methanol had been detected in at least some of the victims.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has ordered an investigation into the liquor deaths and vowed to crack down on illegal liquor brewers, who often spike their alcohol with chemicals to increase potency.

Villagers angered by the deaths have also ransacked local breweries suspected of selling the tainted liquor.

Alcohol poisoning kills hundreds of people in India every year.

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