India Liquor Tainted With Chemicals Kills 156 in Five Days

Locally brewed liquor apparently tainted with lethal chemicals continued to kill in southern India, with another 66 people dying and bringing the overall death toll from the past five days to 156, police said Wednesday.

Another 135 people were being treated in hospitals in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states, said Sri Kumar, the Karnataka state police chief.

Bootleggers have been selling the deadly brew as police shut authorized liquor shops in Karnataka state because of voting for the state government, Kumar said.

In India, liquor stores and bars are routinely closed on voting days to prevent politicians from handing out free alcohol in a bid to win votes.

Kumar said 66 deaths were reported overnight and on Wednesday.

Since Saturday, 156 people, mostly poor laborers, have died — 88 in and around Bangalore, India's key information technology hub, and 25 in neighboring Kolar district.

Another 43 people died in a village just across the border with Tamil Nadu state, according to the Web site of the Karnataka state police.

Police were analyzing the drink to determine what made it so deadly.

Police arrested 1,500 people and seized tainted liquor worth $1.8 million since elections were announced in Karnataka state last month in a drive to curb its distribution, Kumar said.

Deaths from illicitly brewed liquor are frequent in Indian villages and towns, where locally made brew is often spiked with pesticides or chemicals like the banned methyl alcohol to make it stronger or increase the amount.