At least 93 people have died and about 200 people have been hospitalized after drinking tainted liquor in two separate incidents in India's northeast, authorities said Saturday. The victims of one of the most deadly bootleg liquor-related incidents ever in India were mostly tea plantation workers, government official Julie Sonowal said.
The tainted liquor was laced with methyl alcohol, a chemical that attacks the central nervous system, on Thursday and started falling unconscious. They were rushed to nearby hospitals and the death toll rose to 93 by Saturday, according to Assam Home Commissioner Ashutosh Agnihotri.
"I had bought half a liter of wine and drank it before eating," one worker being treated told the BBC. "Initially, everything was normal, but after some time my head started hurting."
"The headache grew so much that I could not eat or sleep," said the worker, who then developed chest pain.
Himanta Biswa Sharma, Assam's health minister, said about 200 people who fell sick after drinking the toxic liquor are in hospitals, some in critical condition. In the past 24 hours alone, 34 patients have died, said Manab Gohain, a doctor at the Jorhat Medical College Hospital.
The owner of a local brewing unit and eight others have been arrested, police official Mukesh Agarwal told the Associated Press. Awarwal said police are pursuing other people believed to be connected to the racket as part of an ongoing investigation.
"We shall not spare anyone involved in manufacture and distribution of the tainted liquor," Sharma said.
Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India because the poor cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops. Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked to increase potency.