India toxic alcohol toll rises to 57

A victim lies in bed in hospital as a family member watches over him
The incident took place in Kallakuruchi district of Tamil Nadu state [BBC]

The number of people who have died since consuming toxic bootleg alcohol last week in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has risen to 57, authorities say.

Several residents in the state's Kallakuruchi district were admitted to hospital on 18 June after they fell ill from consuming poisonous liquor.

Around 156 people are still being treated for illnesses such as excessive diarrhoea.

Five people have been arrested so far and a wider investigation is underway.

Dozens of people die in India each year after drinking bootleg alcohol from backstreet distilleries.

Bootleggers often add methanol - a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an anti-freeze - to their mixture to increase its strength.

If ingested in even small quantities, methanol can cause blindness, liver damage and death.

In Kallakuruchi, most of those who consumed the bootleg alcohol were daily wage workers.

The accused allegedly sold the concoction in packets through a local vendor, according to The NewsMinute website.

People who consumed the alcohol experienced symptoms like dizziness, headaches, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain and eye irritation and were taken to hospital.

Murugan, one of the survivors, told BBC Tamil that he usually bought four to six packets of alcohol every day.

On 17 June, he stumbled as he walked back home after drinking a few packets.

"I could not do anything even though I felt that I was in a different state than usual," he said. "My son carried me inside the house and put me to bed."

His family rushed him to the hospital after he started vomiting the next morning.

Tamil Nadu toxic alcohol
Family members say they rushed victims to the hospital after they fell ill [ANI]

Satya, another survivor, told BBC Tamil that most of the people he drank with last week had died. "I am lucky to have survived," he said.

At least 32 of the deaths reported were from Karunapuram, a neighbourhood with residents predominantly from underprivileged caste groups, The NewsMinute reported.

On Sunday, police said they arrested the man who had allegedly sold methanol to the vendors.

Authorities also suspended a senior police official and 10 members of the state's prohibition enforcement wing - which overseas the smuggling of illicit alcohol in the state - for negligence.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin had announced a compensation of 1m rupees ($12,000; £9,425) to families of those who have died and 50,000 rupees each to those who are in hospital.

"Those involved in the crime have been arrested. Action has also been taken against officials who failed to prevent it," he wrote on X (formerly Twitter) last week.

But opposition parties criticised the government for failing to curb toxic alcohol in the state.

"The deaths caused by illicit liquor in the past two years under the DMK [Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam] regime have decelerated Tamil Nadu by four decades, taking us back to the 1980s," said K Annamalai, the state chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

He demanded that the minister in charge of overseeing the sale of alcohol resign immediately.

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