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Toxic alcohol ‘laced with methanol’ kills at least 99 people in India

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Toxic alcohol ‘laced with methanol’ kills at least 99 people in India

At least 99 people have died and scores have been admitted to hospital in northern India after drinking toxic alcohol.

News of the deaths in the states of and Uttarakhand has trickled out in over the past three days, with police suspecting the moonshine had been laced with methanol. Authorities said many victims had complained of dizziness and were taken to hospital writhing in pain.

Cheap, locally made liquor is common in parts of rural India and bootleggers often add methanol, a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as antifreeze, to their product to increase its strength. If ingested in large quantities methanol can cause blindness, liver damage and death.

In one district of Uttar Pradesh, 59 people died after consuming toxic alcohol, a police spokesman, Shailendra Kumar Sharma, said. In a neighbouring district, a senior police officer said nine had died, adding that 66 suspected bootleggers had been arrested and samples of the liquor sent to a laboratory for testing.

At least 31 people died in neighbouring Uttarakhand state and two people were arrested on suspicion of supplying the liquor. “We are trying to find out the main source of this illicit liquor. We will soon [find] the main culprit behind this tragedy,” Janmejay Khanduri, a senior Uttarakhand police official, said.

About 3,000 people linked with the illicit trade have been arrested in Uttar Pradesh in connection with the incident, according to newspaper reports.

Hundreds of people die every year in India from consuming cheap alcohol. In 2015, more than 100 people died in a Mumbai slum after drinking moonshine.

Of the estimated 5bn litres of alcohol consumed every year in India, about 40% is illegally produced, according to the International Spirits and Wine Association of India.

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