Methanol-laced bootleg liquor kills at least 39 in India

Indian police gather around containers of bootleg alcohol in 2017

Modal Trigger Indian police gather around containers of bootleg alcohol in 2017. AFP Getty Images

Toxic alcohol has claimed almost 100 lives in northern India, with dozens still hospitalised, while more than 200 people are being held in a police crackdown.

After drinking poisonous liquor in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, 40 people died after one by one. The death toll had stood at 28 on Friday.

The villagers had consumed the tainted liquor suspected of being laced with methanol on Thursday. About 24 people are admitted to the hospital.

Police have arrested eight suspected bootleggers while the provincial governments have suspended 35 officials, including 12 police. Regional authorities have also suspended several officials following the incident.

They vowed to take strict action against the accused, saying they would demand death penalty for those involved in the illicit trade once the case reaches court.

Later on Saturday, authorities in both states announced a compensation of 200 000 rupees ($2 800) each to the relatives of those killed.

Hundreds of poor people die every year in India due to alcohol poisoning, mostly from consuming cheap alcohol.

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 an anti-freeze - to their product to increase its strength.

In 2015, more than 100 people died in a Mumbai slum after drinking illegal moonshine.

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