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Bootleg liquor mixed with toxic methanol kills over 100 in India

Rupak De Chowdhuri / Reuters

Family members carry their relative, who fell ill after consuming bootleg liquor, inside a hospital at Diamond Harbour, near Kolkata, India, on Dec. 15, 2011. An adulterated batch of bootleg liquor has killed at least 100 drinkers in eastern India, with dozens more arriving at a cramped rural hospital with poisoning symptoms.

Bikas Das / AP

A woman is comforted as she cries after hearing of her relative's death from toxic alcohol on Dec. 15, 2011.

Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP - Getty Images

A victim receives medical treatment at the Diamond Harbour hospital on Dec. 15, 2011.

Update, 10.25 a.m. ET: The death toll from a tainted batch of bootleg liquor had risen to 143 by Thursday evening, according to Surajit Kar Purkayaspha, a top West Bengal state police official. About 100 people were being treated in hospitals, he said.

The Associated Press reports:

Bootleg liquor laced with toxic methanol killed 126 people and sickened dozens more who bought the illegal brew at small shops in eastern India, officials said Thursday. Police arrested seven suspected bootleggers.

Thousands of relatives, many of them wailing, gathered outside the packed hospital. Inside, dead bodies lay on the floor covered in quilts, while the ill waited on staircases to be treated. Groups of men sat in the halls with saline drips running into their arms.

Illegal liquor operations flourish across the slums of urban India and among the rural poor who can't afford the alcohol at state-sanctioned shops. The hooch, often mixed with cheap chemicals, causes illness and death on occasion, but rarely creates such mass carnage.

Day laborers and other poor workers began falling ill late Tuesday after drinking cheap booze from illegal shops near the village of Sangrampur, district magistrate Naraya Swarup Nigam said. Read more.