India Raids Bootleggers Amid Toxic Booze Deaths

Death toll hits 170, a dozen arrested
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2011 10:15 AM CST
A patient is surrounded by relatives as he takes oxygen and saline while being treated in a hospital after drinking toxic alcohol in Diamond Harbour, near Kolkata, India, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011.   (AP Photo/Bikas Das)
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(Newser) – Police raided dozens of liquor dens and illegal distilleries in eastern India today, arresting a dozen people, as more and more people fell ill thanks to illegal methanol-tainted booze. Police are still searching for the mastermind behind the operation, a district magistrate tells the AP. So far 170 people have died thanks to the bad hooch, and more than a hundred others are in the hospital, some in critical condition.

The outbreak has been so pronounced that in the village of Sangrampur almost every home had at least one victim, and newly widowed women said there weren't enough villagers to help cremate and bury all of the dead. Some angry villagers tore apart booze shacks themselves. Cheap, illegal liquor is common in India's poor rural regions and urban slums; the ring that police are busting would sell it to laborers for about 20 cents per half-liter.

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