At least 70 people died after consuming spurious liquor in two adjoining districts of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Uttarakhand states of India, officials said yesterday.
Twenty four villagers died in Balupur, where the hooch was reported first, and its neighbouring villages in Uttarakhand's Haridwar district while 46 others, who had come home to adjoining Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh died after drinking the contaminated liquor in Balupur on Thursday night, the officials said.
With nearly two dozen people still in hospital, the toll is feared to go up.
Officials said 35 deaths in Saharanpur took place in the district itself. Eleven others, who were referred from Saharanpur for medical treatment in Meerut, died at a hospital there.
The viscera of some more people reported dead since Friday is still being examined to determine if those deaths are also alcohol-related.
The Uttar Pradesh police have begun a crackdown on illicit liquor manufacture and sales and raids were conducted in various places.
"We will catch everyone involved, either this side of the border or that side. This will be an ongoing operation. We don't know the manufacture of spurious liquor in our areas," said Saharanpur Superintendent of Police Dinesh Kumar.
Uttar Pradesh government has already suspended the District Excise Officer and District Excise Inspector of Kushinagar in connection with the hooch.
The UP police says over 30 people have been arrested for the tragedy so far and stringer sections of the law including the Gangster Act and the National Security Act will be applied against them. The government says all those arrested were involved in the manufacture and distribution of illicit liquor.
Since 2011, over 175 people have died in eight adulterated tragedies across UP. Four of those incidents have happened during Yogi Adityanath's tenure as UP chief minister.