LUCKNOW, India (AP) — A bad batch of bootleg liquor killed at least 28 people and sent 160 others to hospitals in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, officials said Tuesday.
Many of the victims had gathered to watch a cricket match Sunday evening in a village about 30 kilometers (20 miles) southwest of the state capital, Lucknow, government official Anil Garg said.
By midday Tuesday, 28 people had died, including 11 in a nearby village, police officer Mukul Goel said.
Doctors in Lucknow said some of those hospitalized were in serious condition and were breathing with respirators, and some had lost their eyesight.
Police arrested the shop owner who sold the pouches of homemade alcohol for about 30 cents each. A raid of the shop uncovered large containers of chemicals, which were sent to a laboratory for testing, district official R.K. Pandey said.
"The symptoms gave a clear indication that these patients were served methyl alcohol," which despite being toxic is sometimes mixed with ethyl alcohol to make a brew cheaper, said Dr. Kausar Usman, head of the trauma center at Lucknow's King George's Medical College.
Deaths from drinking illegally brewed alcohol are common in India because the poor cannot afford licensed liquor.
Villager Rajesh Kumar, whose two older brothers became ill after drinking the liquor on Monday, said the shop in Datli village was well known for selling inexpensive alcohol, and that many men came from surrounding villages to buy it.
The state's highest elected official, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, suspended six police officers suspected of taking bribes to ignore complaints about the shop and its alcohol, and announced that a "drive will be launched against those involved in the illicit liquor trade."