Toxic booze tragedy: Mumbai death toll crosses 90

MUMBAI - The death toll from India's latest incident of mass alcohol poisoning has risen above 90, with more than 45 in hospital, police said yesterday.

Mr Dhananjay Kulkarni, Mumbai's deputy police commissioner, said yesterday that toxic homemade liquor had killed at least 94 slum dwellers in Mumbai, the country's financial capital.

The police have arrested five people in connection with the deaths in a western neighbourhood of the city, he said.

"More than 150 have consumed this alcohol. The death toll may rise," he added, noting that the the number of those who have died from drinking the moonshine could reach three figures.

Eight police officials have been suspended for suspected negligence.

Victims first started to fall ill on Wednesday morning after consuming the illegal booze.

An investigation is taking place into whether high levels of methanol were present in the moonshine, often called "country liquor" in India.

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

Unlicensed liquor is widely consumed across the country. A 25-centilitre bottle is sometimes sold for less than US$1 (S$1.30), and deaths are frequently reported.

However, it is rare for such incidents to occur in a major city like Mumbai; most cases take place in poor, rural areas.

The latest incident is the worst case of its kind to be recorded in Mumbai since 2004, when around 100 people died.

More than 140 people died in West Bengal state in 2011 from drinking homemade liquor.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2015, with the headline 'Toxic booze tragedy: Mumbai death toll crosses 90'. Print Edition | Subscribe