At least nine dead in Tamil Nadu’s Kallakurichi after consuming spurious liquor

| Video Credit: S.S. Kumar

Tamil Nadu CM M. K. Stalin ordered the suspension of the Superintendent of Police Samay Singh Meena and transfer of Collector Sravan Kumar Jatavath; he also ordered a CB-CID probe into the tragedy

Updated - June 20, 2024 06:02 pm IST

Published - June 19, 2024 07:43 pm IST - KALLAKURICHI

At least nine persons including a woman died after allegedly consuming spurious liquor at Karunapuram in Kallakurichi district on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. While six of them died in Kallakurichi, three others succumbed in neighbouring Salem district. It is feared the toll could go up. Only last year, at least 22 persons had died in twin hooch tragedies in nearby Villupuram and Chengalpattu districts.

Chief Minister M K Stalin ordered the suspension of the Superintendent of Police Samay Singh Meena and transfer of Collector Sravan Kumar Jatavath. Besides he ordered a CB-CID probe into the tragedy.

An attendant of a patient from Karunapuram admitted in the Emergency Ward of the Kallakurichi Government Medical College and Hospital on June 19, 2024.

An attendant of a patient from Karunapuram admitted in the Emergency Ward of the Kallakurichi Government Medical College and Hospital on June 19, 2024. | Photo Credit: S.S. Kumar

Over 66 others are undergoing treatment in hospitals. Of them, 17 have been referred to the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (Jipmer) in Puducherry, eight to Government Mohan Kumaramangalam Medical College and Hospital in Salem and four to Villupuram Medical College Hospital.

An official said preliminary investigations revealed that those admitted were affected due to methanol poisoning.

The deaths were reported from Karunapuram, within the limits of the Kallakurichi town police station. According to sources, the victims, mostly daily wage labourers and load men, had reportedly purchased the illicit liquor from a vendor in Karunapuram.

They had consumed it on June 18 (Tuesday) and started experiencing symptoms, including loss of breath, blurred vision and giddiness and repeated bouts of diarrhoea. Three of the victims identified as R. Suresh, 40; M. Selvam and M. Arumugham died early on June 19 (Wednesday). Three other victims were identified as S. Vadivukarasi, C. Kandan and P. Jagadeesan. Three persons - identified as Narayanasamy, Ramu and Subramani - who were admitted to the hospital in Salem died. As the news spread, relatives in large numbers started to gather on the hospital premises in the evening.

Initially, the district administration attempted to suppress information on the tragedy claiming it was not related to consumption of arrack. However, a visit to the spot confirmed that sale of spurious liquor was not new in the village.

Agathiyan, a resident of Karunapuram told The Hindu he had brought his father Sivakumar to the Kallakurichi medical college and hospital this morning after he was found lying motionless on the bed at their house.

However, the hospital staff failed to provide any timely treatment for over two hours, patients’ relatives claimed. “My father started complaining of blurred vision and nausea and I immediately took him to a private hospital. His blood sample was taken and the doctors confirmed it to be a case of methanol poisoning,” he said.

Also read: T.N. Governor R.N. Ravi condoles death of Kallakurichi hooch tragedy victims

“My father came home drunk last night and complained of blurred vision, abdominal pain and vomiting this morning. When he was unable to bear the pain I admitted him in the hospital,” Sakthi, son of Murugan, another patient said. Huge crowds of anxious attendants and victims thronged the Emergency block as a huge flow of patients were brought in stretchers to the hospital.

Earlier, District Collector Sravan Kumar Jatavath visited those admitted in the Kallakurichi Government Medical College and Hospital told reporters that Praveen, one of the victims who died, had been admitted to the medical college and hospital for stomach pain and was discharged just yesterday. Another victim died due to seizures, the Collector said, claiming that all the three deaths were not due to consumption of liquor and were not reported in the hospital.

The blood samples of all the patients admitted in the hospital have been taken and sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory in Villupuram for detailed examination. A team of doctors is treating them and their condition is said to be stable.

CB-CID probe ordered; Collector transferred, SP suspended

In the wake of the deaths, the Tamil Nadu Government on June 19 transferred the District Collector Sravan Kumar Jatavath and placed under suspension the Superintendent of Police Samay Singh Meena.

A press release from the State Government said M.S. Prasanth has been appointed as new district collector and Rajat Chaturvedi as the new SP.

A victim from Karunapuram being taken in a stretcher to the Emergency Ward in the Kallakurichi Government Medical College and Hospital on June 19, 2024.

A victim from Karunapuram being taken in a stretcher to the Emergency Ward in the Kallakurichi Government Medical College and Hospital on June 19, 2024. | Photo Credit: S.S. Kumar

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin deputed Highways Minister E.V. Velu and Health Minister Ma. Subramanain to Kallakurichi to make necessary arrangements for treatment of 26 persons who had consumed spurious liquor. The police arrested Govindaraj alias Kannukutty who sold the liquor and a forensic analysis confirmed the presence of methanol in the liquor, an official release said. About 200 litres of the brew was seized from him.

The government said all the victims were from Karunapuram Colony in Kallakurichi taluk and they had consumed spurious liquor sold in sachets. They complained of stomach ache, irritation in the eyes and vomiting and were admitted in Kallakurichi Government Medical College Hospital.

The government has sent a four-member medical team to Kallakurichi to treat the victims and 18 persons have been sent to JIPMER in Puducherry. Doctors from Salem and Tiruvannamalai have rushed to Kallakurichi and 12 ambulances have been kept ready.

The State government also suspended DSP Tamilselvan in-charge-of prohibition and Manoj, DSP, Tirukovilur and other officers.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on Wednesday announced the transfer of investigation into the illicit liquor deaths in Kallakurichi to the Crime Branch-CID.

The CM also announced the suspension of Prohibition Enforcement Wing DSP, Kallakurichi and Tirukovilur PEW Inspectors Kavitha and Pandiselvi, Tirukovilur SI Barathy, Inspector Anand, Sub-Inspector Vishwachandran, Writer Baskaran and SSI Manoj

According to a press release, the victims are suspected to have consumed illicit arrack sold in sachets. They succumbed in the medical college and hospital

All required medicines have been sent from Villupuram, Salem and Tiruvannamalai medical college and hospitals to Kallakurichi.

(with inputs from B. Kolappan and S.P. Saravanan)

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