Spurious liquor death toll rises to 155

Preliminary probe points to faulty distillation with a lethal mix of liquid jaggery and methyl alcohol

Published - February 25, 2019 09:58 pm IST - GUWAHATI

The death toll in the Assam hooch tragedy touched 155 on Monday as preliminary investigation identified methanol and jaggery as the killer combination.

The disaster struck some villages around two tea estates in as many eastern Assam districts on Thursday night. According to data provided by the government in the Assembly on Monday, 95 and 60 people have so far died in Golaghat and Jorhat districts. Of the deceased, 45 are women. The administrative heads of the districts said a total of 268 people were undergoing treatment.

16 serious

“The condition of 16 patients continues to be serious,” Jorhat Deputy Commissioner Roshni Aparanji Korathi said. Her Golaghat counterpart Dhiren Hazarika said the rush of new patients had come down.

Excise Minister Parimal Suklabaidya said preliminary investigation had pointed to faulty distillation with a lethal mix of liquid jaggery and methyl alcohol. “We have sent samples of liquor as well as viscera of the deceased for forensic test,” he said.

Doctors at the Jorhat Medical College Hospital, where most of the patients are undergoing treatment, said it was difficult to save people once methyl alcohol or methanol enters the bloodstream.

Crackdown on dens

Excise officials said 34 illegal brewers and vendors have been arrested in the two affected districts in crackdowns on liquor dens since Friday. Police and excise personnel have so far registered more than 100 cases apart from destroying 76,000 litres of spurious liquor in the two districts alone.

Meanwhile, former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Congress MLA Ajanta Neog said uneducated tea plantation workers had been paying the price of an “unholy nexus” between liquor traders and excise officials.

The tea estates where the plantation workers have died after consuming spurious liquor fall within the Assembly constituencies of Mr. Gogoi (Titabor) and Ms. Neog (Golaghat).

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