At least 23 people have died after consuming toxic alcohol in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
The first deaths were reported early on Friday and 27 more people were being treated in hospitals in villages in the Aligarh district, senior official Chandra Bhushan Singh said on Saturday.
The victims, locals who belong to some three villages as well as truck drivers, procured the liquor from a government-licensed store.
The death toll was likely to rise as several victims were in a critical condition. Domestic media reported that more people were falling sick after consuming the lethal brew.
Footage showed policemen bringing bodies in white and black-coloured bags to the morgue. Many bodies were seen on stretchers outside the room where autopsies are performed.
Locals have blamed the regional administration for the deaths.
“There is so much negligence … there are so many bodies lying around here at the post-mortem house and many more have already been cremated. The administration is lying about the casualty count. No one has come to check on us,” a man who lost his brother in the tragedy told broadcaster NDTV.
State authorities ordered a probe and have suspended five state officials, while five people including the alleged kingpin of a spurious liquor racket were arrested.
The illegal liquor trade thrives in India because it is much cheaper than commercially produced alcohol.
Methanol, a chemical used in antifreeze and wood spirits, is often found in these self-made drinks.
Hundreds of people, most of them poor, die in India each year after consuming illegally distilled alcohol, government data shows.