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28 die from drinking bootleg liquor

At least 28 people have died and another 160 needed hospital treatment after drinking a bad batch of bootleg liquor in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, officials said.

Many of the victims were among more than 200 people who had gathered to watch a cricket match in a village about 20 miles (30km) south-west of the state capital, Lucknow, on Sunday evening, government official Anil Garg said.

By midday today, 28 people had died, including 11 in another village further south-west, police officer Mukul Goel said.

Doctors in Lucknow said some of those taken to hospital were in a serious condition and relying on artificial ventilation, and that some had lost their eyesight.

Police arrested the shop owner who sold the 200ml pouches of the home-made alcohol for about 19 rupees (20p) each. A raid of the shop uncovered large containers of chemicals, which have been sent to a laboratory for testing, district official RK Pandey said.

"The symptoms gave a clear indication that these patients were served methyl alcohol," which despite being toxic is sometimes mixed with ethyl alcohol to make a brew cheaper, said Dr Kausar Usman, head of the trauma centreat Lucknow's King George's Medical College.

Deaths from drinking illegally brewed alcohol are common in India because the poor cannot afford licensed liquor.

Villager Rajesh Kumar, whose two older brothers became ill after drinking the unlicensed liquor, said the shop in Datli village was well known for selling inexpensive alcohol, and that many men came from surrounding villages just to buy the booze.

The state's highest elected official, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, suspended six police officers suspected of taking bribes to ignore complaints against the shop and its alcohol and announced that a "drive will be launched against those involved in the illicit liquor trade".


From Belfast Telegraph