New Delhi - Another 12 people have died after drinking toxic homemade liquor in northern India, officials said Monday, taking the overall toll to 33 with dozens more fighting for their lives in hospitals.
The victims, all from the same district in Uttar Pradesh state, fell ill after drinking the alcohol on Friday night and were taken to hospital suffering from severe stomachache, vomiting and blurred vision.
Most were daily wage labourers and farmers too poor to afford branded alcohol, who would usually buy a cheap mix from illegal bootleggers.
Police have arrested a local vendor on charges of culpable homicide and authorities have suspended 11 officials, including some police.
Ajay Yadav, the top civil official in Etah district, told AFP the death toll there had reached 29.
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In neighbouring Farrukhabad district, police said the death toll climbed to four, with over a dozen more in critical condition.
Bootleggers often add methanol - a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an anti-freeze or fuel - to their home-brew liquor to increase the alcoholic content.
If ingested, it can cause blindness and liver damage and can kill in larger concentrations.
Hundreds of poor people die every year in India due to alcohol poisoning, mostly from consuming cheap hooch.
In April eight people including two soldiers died after drinking tainted liquor in the western desert state of Rajasthan.
More than 100 people died in Mumbai last year after drinking illegal homemade moonshine in a slum.
Nearly three billion litres of legal liquor and an estimated two billion litres of hooch are consumed in India annually, according to the International Spirits and Wines Association.