India hit by major illicit alcohol tragedy

Bootleg liquor has claimed almost 100 lives in Northern India and left dozens more hospitalised with methanol poisoning.

The casualties are mainly from Saharanpur and Haridwar, two neighbouring districts of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand states, and there are fears that the number of deaths could rise as medical services battle to treat the afflicted. Deaths from illicit alcohol are fairly common in India but claim on average around 100 lives a year, so the current incident is particularly severe.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), illegal and informally produced alcohol made up an average of about 25 per cent of all alcohol consumed worldwide in 2010, and is a big problem in lower-income countries where genuine brands can be unaffordable.

Police in the two Indian states have arrested 200 people in connection with the poisoning and have seized “hundreds of litres” of suspect liquor in raids, according to local press reports. Officials associated with excise and the police have also been suspended as the investigation into the incident continues.

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