170 people have died in an eastern Indian district after drinking bootleg alcohol that had been mixed with toxic methanol. Another 195 are still critically ill in the hospital.
Photo Credit: BBC
The victims had gathered in various locations for a drink after work Tuesday, which proved to be fatal for many. Residents of 12 different villages had purchased the illegal booze for 10 rupees (about 18 cents) a half-liter. What they thought was a bargain, was actually a death sentence.
Many of the victims were day laborers, street vendors, and rickshaw drivers.
So far twelve people have been arrested in connection with making and distributing the cheap, unlawful liquor but the District Magistrate Naraya Swarup Nigam reports that police are still searching for the kingpin of the operation at this time. Local residents admit that illegal breweries in that area operate freely and local authorities do not interfere.
Ironically, just last week the state of Gujarat brought in a new law that makes the illegal manufacturing and sale of toxic alcohol punishable by death.
Also known as methyl alcohol or wood alcohol, methanol is a chemical used as an antifreeze, solvent, and fuel. Its toxic properties are astounding. When ingested, as little as 10 mL of pure methanol can cause permanent blindness by destroying the optic never and just 30 mL can be lethal. The toxic effects take hours to appear and because it is similar to ethanol (the alcohol in beverages) it is difficult to differentiate between the two.
If there’s a lesson to be learned from this tragic story, it’s to stay away from bootleg booze – unless you’ve made it yourself.