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Death toll from India toxic liquor rises to 170

The death toll from a mass poisoning in eastern India caused by toxic home-brewed alcohol climbed to 170 Friday, as police made more arrests and destroyed dozens of illegal distilleries.

"We now have 170 confirmed dead," Shyamapada Basak, health services director of West Bengal state told AFP. He added that the toll was expected to rise further as 145 people were still critically ill in local hospitals.

Police said they had arrested another two people, taking the number detained to 12 over the past two days.

"We are now looking for Khonra Badsha, the kingpin of the racket involving the sale of illicit, spurious liquor in the district," West Bengal police additional director general, Surojit Kar Purokayastha told AFP.

The victims of Tuesday's alcohol poisoning are from 10 villages in an area near West Bengal's border with Bangladesh.

Speaking in the state assembly, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the home-made liquor industry had "assumed the proportions of a small-scale industry".

Suggestion a nexus between politicians and bootleggers, she said "political intervention" made it difficult for police to crack down on the illegal liquor trade.

Many of the victims were labourers and rickshaw drivers too poor to afford branded alcohol who stopped for a drink at illegal bars or bought from bootleggers after work.

Purokayastha said police teams had raided numerous locations in the area, looking for "moonshine" stills manufacturing the illicit liquor. Read More

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