Lethal batch of bootleg booze kills at least 39 and leaves 20 others blind

At least 39 people died and 20 people were blinded after drinking a lethal batch of bootleg booze in India.

Local media reported that the deaths occured mainly accross two villages in India’s impoversihed Bihar state, where the local government banned the sale and consumption of liquor in 2016.

The ban came about after women’s groups campaigned against workers spending their paltry income on alcohol, thus creating a- dangerous black market for bootlegged booze.

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"If someone consumes liquor, they'll die," Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said after the tragedy, on Thursday, December 15.

"As there is a liquor ban here, something spurious will be sold due to which people die. Liquor is bad and shouldn't be consumed," he said.

Men in the Saran district reportedly began vomiting on Tuesday before their condition rapidly deteriorated.

Senior police officer Santosh Kumar said several of the people who managed to escape death have lost their eyesight.

“We have arrested 126 people in the last 48 hours after the incident was reported and two cases have been registered,” Kumar told Al Jazeera.

A local doctor told the publication that around 55 people reported to him on Wednesday complaining of a host of symptoms including loss of vision, nausea, dizziness, sweating, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure.

"Among them, 15 were discharged after treatment and the rest were referred to different hospitals for advanced treatment,” Dr Gopal Krishna said, adding that four people died immediately after coming to the primary health centre.

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The International Spirits and Wine Association of India estimates that 40% of the estimated five billion litres of alcohol drunk every year in India is bootlegged.

Sushil Modi, the state BJP leader, said more than 1,000 people have died after drinking tainted liquor since the 2016 ban.

Illicit liquor is often spiked with methanol to increase its potency, Al Jazeera reported.

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