The death toll from consumption of spurious liquor at Sangrampur here shot up to 148 on Thursday, even as 100 other victims were battling for their lives in hospitals.
While over 100 persons have died at the Diamond Harbour sub-divisional hospital since the victims started pouring in on Wednesday, the remaining deaths were reported from other hospitals in the city.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced a probe into the incident by the State's Criminal Investigation Department. Ten persons who were part of the illicit liquor racket have been arrested.
Chemical analysis will be done of the body fluids of the deceased which are being preserved by forensic experts. Doctors said that along with “methyl alcohol poisoning,” they were suspecting the presence of some chemicals mixed with the alcohol for high intoxication.
Authorities at the sub-divisional hospital found it difficult to cope with the rush of patients, who kept pouring in through the day.
Most of the patients at the 250-bed hospital were lying on the floor, with anxious family members by their side. They were administered saline drips. More than 325 people have been admitted to the hospital since Wednesday. They consumed illicit liquor from hooch dens in Sangrampur and adjoining villages of the sub-division.
“The patients are suffering from an acute stomach pain, blurred vision and nausea. They have been admitted with methyl alcohol toxicity, for treatment of which ventilator is required, but this facility is not available in the hospital,” said Sikha Adhikari, the district's Chief Medical Officer of Health.
A pall of gloom has descended on the hospital. Thousands of distraught people assembled there, many to claim bodies, which were taken out on cyclerickshaw vans after post-mortem.
As the count of the dead kept rising, anger was palpable in the villages against the district administration and the police. Locals at Sangrampur and adjoining villages alleged that illicit liquor dens had been doing a flourishing business in the area over the years. The police did little to clamp down on the dealers, they said.
Irate villagers ransacked the dens at some place and set a few ablaze, alleging that they operated, despite public resentment, because of a nexus between the local police and the illicit trade.