Methanol-Laced Bootleg Liquor Claims 54 Lives in Tamil Nadu, Dozens Hospitalized

Kallakurichi, India — A tragic event unfolded in Tamil Nadu, where at least 54 individuals died after consuming bootleg alcohol containing methanol, a poisonous substance. The incident, primarily affecting the district of Kallakurichi, has also resulted in several hospitalizations, with patients suffering from symptoms such as vomiting and severe abdominal pains.

Local health facilities have been scrambling since Wednesday to treat nearly 200 affected people, of whom more than 100 remain under medical care. Among the deceased are 48 men and six women. The state, familiar with sporadic incidents of methanol poisoning from illicit alcohol, is once again facing a grave public health crisis.

The consumption of illegally manufactured alcohol is a common practice among the poorer segments of the community, who often find the cost of legalized, branded alcohol prohibitious. To enhance the potency and volume of homemade spirits, illicit vendors sometimes add methanol — a practice that can lead to devastating health consequences, including liver failure, blindness, and death.

In an immediate response to the crisis, Tamil Nadu authorities have detained at least seven individuals linked to the distribution of the tainted liquor. During the raids, police confiscated approximately 200 liters of the illicit brew. The state government has also disciplined ten officials for failing to curb the illegal trade of bootleg liquor.

This tragedy has prompted Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin to take further preventive measures. Stalin has announced that the families of the deceased and those hospitalized will receive financial assistance from the government. Additionally, an inquiry led by a retired High Court judge has been commissioned to thoroughly investigate the incident and ensure justice.

Political reactions have been swift, with both state ministers and opposition leaders visiting the afflicted district to meet with victims’ families and express their condolences. These leaders have openly criticized the government’s inability to prevent such frequent occurrences of mass poisoning from illicit alcohol.

In a somber reflection of the tragedy’s scale, a mass cremation for the victims was organized, with multiple families performing the last rites for their loved ones side-by-side.

This event is not isolated but stands as a continuing issue in the region. Just the previous year, a similar incident in a nearby district resulted in over a dozen deaths. More broadly, Tamil Nadu and other Indian states have witnessed a series of mass fatalities due to the consumption of illegally produced alcohol. In 2020, Punjab reported over 120 deaths, whereas in 2022, Bihar and Gujarat recorded significant fatalities due to methanol-laced alcohol.

The recurring incidents underline a persistent challenge in regulating the production and sale of alcohol and controlling the use of toxic substances in illicit brewing. Public health advocates and policy makers continue to call for more stringent enforcement and increased public awareness to combat this deadly issue.