A tainted batch of bootleg liquor killed 126 people and sent dozens more to the hospital in villages outside the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, officials said.
Day laborers and other poor workers began falling ill late on Tuesday after drinking the brew that was laced with the toxic methanol around the village of Sangrampur, about 30km south of Kolkata, district magistrate Narayan Swarup Nigam said.
“It’s a very sad thing that this has happened. Why don’t the police stop this? I cannot understand? What connection do they have?” said Anwar Hassan Mullah, who brought six people from his village to the hospital.
All of them died, Mullah told NDTV news channel.
Police arrested four people in connection with making and distributing the methanol-spiked booze, police official Surajit Kar Purkayastha said. Highly toxic methanol can be used as a fuel, solvent and anti-freeze.
By yesterday morning, the death toll had skyrocketed to 102, and dozens more remained -hospitalized, Nigam said.
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, but this is a social problem also, and this has to be dealt with socially also along with action,” she said, according to Press Trust of India.
The latest tragedy began on Tuesday night when groups of poor laborers finished work and bought some cheap homemade booze for about 10 rupees (US$0.20) a half liter, less than one-third 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, Nigam said.