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Toxic alcohol kills 24 in central India

New Delhi
At least 24 people have died after consuming toxic alcohol in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, police said on Thursday.
The first deaths were reported on Tuesday, and a dozen people are being treated in hospitals in Morena district, an official at the police control room said.
All the affected belong to five villages in the vicinity of the small town of Chhaira, police inspector Parvat Singh said.
Two people have been arrested in connection with the incident and a search is on for five others, Singh said. A reward of 10,000 rupees (137 dollars) each has been offered for information leading to their arrests.
The state government has set up a three-member panel of top officials to investigate the incident.
The local administration fears the numbers of affected may rise as preliminary investigations revealed 50 bottles of liquor of the same batch had been sold in the area.
Morena district’s police chief and top administration official have been transferred and the excise officer and at least five policemen have been suspended.
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 these self-made drinks.
An average of 1,000 people, most of them poor, die in India each year after consuming illegally distilled alcohol, government data shows.
In October, 11 men, mostly daily wage workers and beggars, died in Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain district after consuming locally made toxic liquor.