Sixty-nine workers have died and at least 200 others have been hospitalised in northeastern India after drinking toxic liquor, officials said Saturday, in the latest case of alcohol poisoning in the country.
The deaths in Assam state came less than two weeks after tainted liquor killed about 100 people in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
“We have recorded the death of 50 persons in Golaghat since Thursday night,” Dhiren Hazarika, deputy commissioner of Golaghat district in Assam, told AFP.
Another official from the neighbouring district of Jorhat said that 19 people had died there after consuming a batch of “spurious liquor”.
The victims, who include many women, worked at local tea estates in the region.
“The people came to the hospital with severe vomiting, extreme chest pain and breathlessness,” doctor Ratul Bordoloi, joint director of Golaghat´s health department, told AFP.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has ordered an inquiry.
State police said they have arrested one man for selling the liquor, and authorities said two excise department officials were suspended for failing to take adequate precautions over the sale of the alcohol.
Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told AFP that the patients were being treated at different hospitals in the affected districts.
Hundreds of mainly poor people die each year in the South Asian country from tainted liquor, which normally costs just a few US cents a bottle.
Of the estimated five billion litres of alcohol drunk every year in India, around 40 percent is illegally produced, according to the International Spirits and Wine Association of India.
Many Indian states have implemented or pushed for prohibition, which, according to critics, further increases the unsupervised manufacture and sale of alcohol.