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West Bengal hooch tragedy toll 121, victims mostly poor

One of the worst ever hooch tragedies in India continued to unfold Thursday, leaving 121 people dead and over 100 in hospitals, as more victims - mostly rickshawpullers, labourers and hawkers - reported sick after consuming hooch in a village.

The victims, who had Tuesday night visited some illegal liquor dens near Sangrampur railway station in the village by the same name in South 24 Parganas district, were mostly from the poorest sections of society.

"So far 121 people have died," district police superintendent L.N. Meena told IANS over phone.

Sangrampur falls under the Diamond Harbour subdivisional headquarter.

Seven people have been arrested for supplying moonshine in the area. Most victims belonged to Usthi, Mandirbazar and Magrahat areas.

Official sources said more people have been admitted to hospitals since Wednesday evening. Patients were coming in even Thursday morning and the toll was likely to rise, they said.

The victims were mostly in a Diamond Harbour hospital, some were admitted in neighbouring areas while yet some were even brought to Kolkata for treatment.

The chemical mixed in the liquor has not yet been identified, said district magistrate N.S. Nigam.

The opposition Left Front has decided to take out a condolence rally from Sangrampur railway station Thursday.

A health official said the victims died of cardio-respiratory failure due to methyl poisoning.

Those taken ill have been admitted to the Diamond Harbour Hospital, health centres and nursing homes. Some have been shifted to Kolkata.

"From around 2 a.m. Wednesday, people started vomiting, had loose motions and complained of serious stomach pain," said a Sangrampur resident.

Locals said quite a few people died outside the hospital as well.

The state government has announced a compensation of Rs.2 lakh each to the families of those who died.

This is one of the worst liquor tragedies in India. Earlier in 1992, over 200 people had died in Orissa after consuming spurious liquor. In 2009, a similar incident in Gujarat left 136 dead.

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