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168 dead after drinking toxic moonshine in eastern India

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 9:05 AM EST, Fri December 16, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police arrest 10 suspects in the sale of the illicit liquor
  • The victims were mainly poor villagers
  • Hundreds are sickened after drinking the moonshine

New Delhi (CNN) -- Police have arrested 10 suspects in the sale of toxic, illegally brewed liquor that has left at least 168 people dead in the Indian state of West Bengal, an official said Friday.

Hundreds were sickened from the contaminated moonshine and 100 people remain hospitalized, said Narayan Swamy Nigam, chief of a district south of the city of Kolkata in eastern India.

Methanol was detected in the bodies of the victims, mainly poor villagers who flooded hospitals after drinking the hooch.

They bought the 200-milliliter (less than 7-fluid-ounce) pouches of moonshine for about 10 cents each, Nigam said. The cheapest brands of liquor produced legitimately cost about 70 cents for a 600-milliliter bottle.

It is the second tragedy to befall this part of India in recent days. A fire at a private hospital in Kolkata killed 88 people after staff abandoned patients in the burning five-story building.

CNN's Sumnima Udas contributed to this report.

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