New Delhi - At least 10 people died and 35 more were hospitalized after drinking illegally brewed alcohol in India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh, officials said on Tuesday.
The villagers, mostly poor farmers and workers, fell ill after drinking the poisonous alcohol in a hamlet in Barabanki district on Monday night.
They procured the liquor from a local vendor and some bootleggers have been arrested.
Officials said many of the victims started complaining of severe abdominal pain and vomiting soon after consuming the tainted brew.
"A total of 10 people including four people from one family have died. Seven among those hospitalized are critical and it is likely the death toll could rise," Barabanki's top official Udai Bhanu Tripathi said by phone.
Local media reported a higher toll of 14 people killed.
State chief minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered a probe into the tragedy which is to be completed in two days time.
A total of 14 excise department and police officials were suspended for their laxity and negligence in the incident.
"The police is conducting raids to arrest people connected with the illicit trade and seize tainted liquor. Three bootleggers have been arrested, but the kingpin, the owner of the unit where the liquor was manufactured, is still at large," Tripathi said.
The illegal liquor trade thrives in India, because it is much cheaper than commercially produced alcohol. Methanol, a chemical used in antifreeze and wood spirits, is often found in such drinks.
In February, 151 people, mostly tea-plantation workers, died after drinking toxic alcohol in one of the country's worst liquor poisonings in recent years.
An average of 1 000 people, most of them poor, die in India each year after consuming illegally brewed alcohol, government data shows.dpa