Bengal hooch tragedy: Death toll rises to 143

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Kolkata:  With over 60 more deaths since last night due to consumption of spurious liquor at Sangrampur village in South 24 Paraganas district, the toll in what is one of West Bengal's worst hooch tragedies has gone up to 143.

At least 50 more people are battling for their lives in several hospitals, including some in Kolkata, after drinking the toxic brew, and the casualty figure could go up further, official sources said.

The state government has ordered an investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the West Bengal Police. Seven persons have been arrested for allegedly serving the illicit liquor. The police are now looking for the person who allegedly supplied the spurious liquor, Noor Islam Fakir, also known as Khora Badshan.

Most of the dead were labourers, rickshaw-pullers and hawkers. They fell ill after consuming spurious liquor from several illegal joints on Tuesday night. According to doctors, they soon began complaining of stomach pain, vomiting, chest pain and body ache. People started experiencing these symptoms from about 2 am on Wednesday morning, a Sangrampur resident said.

The post mortem conducted on the dead indicated that the cause of death was respiratory and cardiac failure. IANS quoted a doctor as saying that the victims died of cardio-respiratory failure due to methyl poisoning. The report, however, said that the district administration was yet to identify the chemical present in the liquor which caused the deaths.

Soon after the incident yesterday, area residents had smashed a liquor manufacturing unit at Mograhat and the joints from where it was being sold at Sangrampur.  Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today said that she was in favour of taking strong action to stop sale of illegal liquor but added that the problem also had to be dealt with "socially".

In an interview to a Bengali news channel, she indirectly blamed the previous Left Front government in the state and said, "Illegal liquor business has been taking place for long in the state. When we try take action to stop this business, resistance comes from different quarters."

"I am not in favour of people drinking liquor, but I also don't believe in instructing people on whether to drink fruit juice or liquor," Ms Banerjee said.

The state government had announced a compensation of Rs. 2 lakh each to the families of those who died.



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