India

India alcohol poisoning: Mumbai death toll tops 100

Wife of Mansingh, 52, who died after consuming bootleg liquor, cries outside their house in a slum in Mumbai, India, June 20, 2015. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The death toll has risen to 102

The death toll from alcohol poisoning in India's western city of Mumbai (Bombay) has crossed 100.

Police spokesman Dhananjay Kulkarni said the number of people who had died now stood at 102, and seven people including two women had been arrested.

He had earlier described the incident as the worst of its kind in the city in more than a decade.

Toxic alcohol deaths are a regular occurrence in India, where people often drink cheap bootleg liquor.

Residents of the Malad slum area fell ill after drinking the cheap homemade alcohol on Wednesday.

Mr Kulkarni said police have been unable to locate the outlets that sold the alcohol.


At the scene: Yogita Limaye, BBC News, Mumbai

All of those who have died come from Laxminagar in Malad which is a sprawling slum in the north-west of the city.

A majority of the people who live here are daily wage labourers, and since most of those who have died are men, there are many families who have lost their only earning member.

Sarika Itkar, a 32-year-old woman lost her husband who worked as a sweeper. "I have two children. How am I going to look after them now?" she asked.

The government has announced compensation of 100,000 rupees ($1575; £995) for the families of those killed, and today some officials were in the slum verifying documents to distribute the money.

Locals say the alcohol was bought from unlicensed sellers who lived in the area, and it used to be sold in plastic packets for as little as 10 rupees for 50ml.


Image copyright Anushree Fadnavis/Indus images
Image caption Seven people have been arrested in connection with the case so far

Police suspect the deaths were caused by methanol poisoning, but are still awaiting reports, Mr Kulkarni said.

Distilling alcohol safely requires a precise control of the temperature, because if that rises above a certain level then methyl alcohol can form. Sometimes, certain herbs or chemicals might be added to increase the strength or improve the flavour, and these can react badly with other chemicals.

At least 29 people were killed after consuming toxic alcohol in Uttar Pradesh state in January.

India has witnessed many other incidents of toxic alcohol deaths in the past:

  • Nearly 170 people died in 2011 in the eastern state of West Bengal
  • At least 30 people were killed in Uttar Pradesh in September 2009
  • More than 100 people were killed in Gujarat in July 2009

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