Indian police make arrests after bootleg liquor kills 39

Indian policemen carry away illegal bootleg liquor seized from a well at Narawn village in Azamgarh district, some 300km south-east of Lucknow, India on Sunday, Oct 20, 2013. Police in northern India have arrested 12 people after at least 39 vil
Indian policemen carry away illegal bootleg liquor seized from a well at Narawn village in Azamgarh district, some 300km south-east of Lucknow, India on Sunday, Oct 20, 2013. Police in northern India have arrested 12 people after at least 39 villagers died from drinking toxic home-brewed liquor, an official said on Monday, Oct 21, 2013. -- PHOTO: AP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Police in northern India have arrested 12 people after at least 39 villagers died from drinking toxic home-brewed liquor, an official said on Monday.

The deaths - the latest from bootleg liquor often called "moonshine" - were reported last week from several villages in Azamgarh district in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

"We have arrested 12 people so far. We will take further action based on the details that have emerged from their questioning," police Superintendant Arvind Sen said.

At least six people were being treated in hospitals for dizziness, nausea and other complaints, Sen added.

The victims were mostly impoverished labourers who bought plastic pouches of tainted liquor on Thursday from a shop in Adampur village.

The state administration has ordered action against the shopkeeper, five district officials and six policemen for possible neglect of duty, the Press Trust of India reported.

Methanol, a highly toxic form of alcohol used as an anti-freeze or fuel, is often added to bootleg liquor in India as a cheap and quick method of upping the alcohol content.

Mass deaths from consuming adulterated alcohol are common in India, where people often imbibe cheap "country liquor".

Nearly 170 people died in 2011 in the eastern state of West Bengal from consuming moonshine. At least 122 people were killed in the western state of Gujarat in 2009 after drinking bootleg liquor bought at illegal shops.