December 15, 2011 / 1:00 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Bad batch of moonshine kills at least 125 in India

(Updates toll, adds hospital quote)

By Rupak De Chowdhuri

MOGRAHAT, India, Dec 15 (Reuters) - An adulterated batch of bootleg liquor has killed at least 125 drinkers in eastern India, with dozens more arriving at a cramped rural hospital with poisoning symptoms.

The deaths come just days after a hospital fire killed 93 people in the same state of West Bengal. Both disasters highlight lax health and safety standards as the nation of 1.2 billion people rapidly modernises.

Residents of Mograhat, a town about 50 km (31 miles) south of West Bengal’s capital Kolkata, fell severely ill after drinking liquor from several illegal shops. Ambulances brought more patients from villages to the town every few minutes on Thursday.

“He drank the alcohol late in the afternoon yesterday...we didn’t realise his health was deteriorating,” Zamir Sardar said about his 32-year-old uncle Jahangir Sardar, a leather cutter, who passed away on Thursday.

“In the morning, his condition seemed very unusual, he cried out in pain. Then we brought him to the hospital as soon as we could, but he passed away within a couple of hours,” he told Reuters on Thursday.

The victims were mostly poor labourers, rickshaw drivers and hawkers, the news channel CNN-IBN reported. It put the death toll at 131 people.

Half-conscious patients were carried into hospitals on stretchers, and treated on the floor as there were not enough beds.

A senior hospital official, who did not want to be quoted by name, said patients were in critical condition. “More and more victims are coming. Many are waiting for treatment, but with a lack of beds it’ll take time to manage,” the official told Reuters by phone.

Mass deaths from drinking moonshine are common in India, where the poor often drink “country liquor” which is cheaper than alcohol from licensed shops. (Reporting by Annie Banerji in NEW DELHI and Rupak De Chowdhuri in MOGRAHAT; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)

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