At least 42 people have died in India after drinking poisonous alcohol

At least 42 people have died and about 100 people have been hospitalized in western India after drinking toxic alcohol, police said Thursday, and authorities have ordered crackdowns on bootleggers.

Dozens of people fell ill earlier this week after drinking methanol — a poisonous form of alcohol sometimes used as an antifreeze — sold in several villages across the state of Gujarat.

Senior police official Ashok Yadav told AFP that 31 people have died in the Botad area since then.

Another 11 people were killed in the neighboring district of Ahmedabad, another senior police official, V. Chandrasekhar, told AFP.

“The investigation revealed that the victims had consumed industrial grade methanol, which resulted in deaths,” State Home Secretary Harsh Sanghavi said in a statement.

Sangawi said 97 people were hospitalized for treatment, two of them in critical condition.

Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is one of the few states in India where the consumption and sale of liquor is illegal.

Authorities cracked down on illegal liquor stores across Gujarat and arrested several people, state police chief Ashish Bhatia said on Wednesday.

Hundreds of people die every year in India from cheap alcohol produced in clandestine distilleries.

According to the International Liquor and Wine Association of India, of the approximately five billion liters of alcohol consumed annually in the country, about 40 percent is produced illegally.

Methanol is often added to the liquor to increase its potency. If ingested, methanol can cause blindness, liver damage, and death.

Last year, 98 people died in the northern state of Punjab after drinking illegal booze.

And in 2019, a similar incident in northeastern Assam killed more than 150 people, most of them tea plantation workers.