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Illegal Alcohol Kills 102 People in India’s West Bengal

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Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- At least 102 people died after drinking illegally distilled liquor in India, where alcohol tainted with industrial chemicals every year kills poor villagers unable to afford licensed brands.

A further 75 people were being treated for alcohol poisoning in hospitals near the West Bengal village of Sangrampur, M. Das, a police spokesman in the state capital Kolkata, said in an interview. The death toll is expected to rise as many people are a serious condition. Four people have been arrested for selling the poisonous brew, he said.

In 2009, at least 107 people died in western Gujarat state and another 30 in northern Uttar Pradesh after drinking toxic alcohol, according to a report by the British Broadcasting Corp. today.

South 24 Parganas, the West Bengal district where the alcohol was consumed, is about a three-hour drive from the state capital Kolkata. The local government has announced compensation of 200,000 rupees ($3,692) for each victim.

Most of the dead were poor laborers and rickshaw-pullers, Press Trust of India reported. The state health department has canceled all leave for doctors to cope with the situation, the news agency said.

The deaths come a week after India’s deadliest fire in seven years killed 91 people at a hospital in Kolkata.

To contact the reporters on this story: Pradipta Mukherjee in Kolkata at pmukherjee7@bloomberg.net; Andrew Macaskill in New Delhi at amacaskill@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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