At least 40 persons, including a 15-year-old boy, died and more than 140 others were in a serious condition after consuming spurious liquor in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district on Wednesday.
Several villagers, including teenagers, had gone to a hooch outlet in Sangrampur village, around 55 km from here, on Tuesday night.
Immediately after drinking, some fell ill at the outlet itself and could not even return home, the police said. Many others complained of severe stomach pain, vomiting and loose motion from around 2am on Wednesday.
“We have arrested the owner of the outlet and three others,” said Kankar Prasad Barui, district additional superintendent of police, rural.
“Most of the men who consumed the country liquor were labourers and masons from nearby areas.”
Sunderban affairs minister Shyamal Mandal said medical teams were rushed from Kolkata.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, "I want to take strong action against those manufacturing and selling illegal liquor."
The police fear the death toll could go up as the condition of several victims admitted in various hospitals in and around Kolkata was critical.
A 12-year-old boy was among those hospitalised, the police said. Following the incident, angry locals ransacked the liquor outlet on Wednesday morning. They alleged the police were aware of the illicit business and would sometimes even drink at the very outlet.
Senior police officers and politicians rushed to the spot on Wednesday.
Public health engineering minister Subrata Mukherjee announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of those who died. He also ordered an inquiry into the tragedy.
This is one of the worst hooch tragedies in the state. In January 2009, 22 people had died in a similar hooch tragedy at Kidderpore area of Kolkata.
Within months, in May 2009, another tragedy of bootleg liquor claimed 10 lives at Tamluk in East Midnapore district.