Toxic liquor kills 34 in India's Tamil Nadu; over 100 hospitalised

Deadly mix of locally brewed arrack drink was laced with poisonous methanol, Tamil Nadu CM says

June 20, 2024
A patient who drank toxic liquor is treated at Kushal Konwar Civil Hospital in Golaghat district in the northeastern Indian state of Assam on February 23, 2019.─ AFP

In a tragic incident in India, a batch of toxic illegal alcohol has claimed the lives of at least 34 people, with over 100 others hospitalised, Tamil Nadu state officials reported on Thursday.

The deadly mix of locally brewed arrack drink was laced with poisonous methanol, Chief Minister MK Stalin said, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Stalin said arrests had been made over the deaths and warned such crimes "ruin society and will be suppressed with an iron fist," according to a statement from his office.

Hundreds of people die every year in India from cheap alcohol made in backstreet distilleries.

To increase its potency the liquor is often spiked with methanol which can cause blindness, liver damage and death.

In the Tamil Nadu case, more than 100 people were hospitalised according to MS Prasanth, a top government official in the state's Kallakurichi district, quoted by Indian media.

State governor RN Ravi was "deeply shocked" at the deaths, adding that "many more victims are in serious condition battling for (their) lives", writing on social media platform X.

Tamil Nadu is not a dry state, but liquor traded on the black market comes at a lower price than alcohol sold legally.

Selling and consuming liquor is prohibited in several other parts of India, further driving the thriving black market for potent and sometimes lethal backstreet moonshine.

Last year, poisonous alcohol killed at least 27 people in one sitting in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, while in 2022, at least 42 people died in Gujarat.