December 15, 2011

India toxic alcohol kills 102 in West Bengal

At least 102 people are now known to have died after consuming toxic alcohol in India's West Bengal state.
Residents of 12 villages in the South 24 Parganas district fell ill after drinking the alcohol. Four people have been arrested.
Some 100 other people are being treated in hospital, with fears the death toll could rise. Many died at home, fearing police would take action against them.
Toxic alcohol deaths are a regular occurrence in India.
Last week, the state of Gujarat brought in a new law making the illegal manufacture and sale of toxic alcohol there punishable by death.
The affected villages are in the Sangrampur, Magrahat, Usthi and Mandirbazar areas.
The villagers drank the locally brewed alcohol on Tuesday evening and despite falling ill many stayed at home fearing police harassment if they went to hospital, reports the BBC's Amitabha Bhattashali in Calcutta.
By Wednesday morning, a large number of people, including two children, had been admitted to hospitals in the area and the nearby city of Calcutta with symptoms of alcohol poisoning.
About 70 people are in a critical condition, state government minister Shyamal Mandal told the BBC.
Local officials said some hospitals were now overcrowded.
Medicines and doctors were rushed to the Diamond Harbour hospital in South 24 Parganas.
Four breweries were ransacked after the deaths began to be reported, Agence France-Presse quoted officials as saying.
Our correspondent says the illegal breweries are in the Gocharan area and local residents say they operate with impunity, as local authorities do not interfere.
Relatives at the Diamond Harbour, 14 DecRelatives gathered at the Diamond Harbour hospital after the news broke
The liquor is packed in cans and delivered all over the district and other parts of the state in buses and on trains. Retailers sell sachets after filling them up with the liquor.
Local NGO workers told the BBC the liquor becomes toxic when it is spiked with ammonium nitrate to "add flavour".
The illegal alcohol - commonly called desi daroo or country-made liquor in India - usually costs as little as 10 rupees (20 US cents) and the majority of the consumers are poor, daily-wage workers.
The tainted liquor can lead to fits, vomiting and death.
India has witnessed many incidents of toxic alcohol deaths.
  • At least 10 people killed in Tamil Nadu in February 2010
  • At least 30 people killed in Uttar Pradesh in September 2009
  • Some 107 people killed in Gujarat in July 2009
Gujarat has taken the strongest action on toxic liquor with its new law which, it says, is intended to deter those involved in the illegal trade.
Gujarat, Mizoram and Nagaland are the only states in India where alcohol is totally prohibited by law.

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