toxic liquor

In this photograph taken on Feb. 10, Indian relatives mourn victims who died from toxic locally-made alcohol cry at Saharanpur Civil Hospital in Saharanpur in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. (Getty Images)

LUCKNOW (AP) — Police say the death toll in northern India from tainted bootleg liquor has risen to 79 people.

Uttar Pradesh state police officer Ashok Kumar said Feb. 11 that 49 people died in two separate incidents in that state while 30 people who consumed a toxic brew in neighboring Uttarakhand state also died.

Post mortems found that the liquor contained methanol, commonly called wood alcohol, a chemical that attacks the central nervous system.

Uttar Pradesh government spokesman Awanish Awasthi said more than 3,000 people have been arrested in a drive against tainted liquor since Feb. 9.

Bootleg liquor operations flourish in rural India, where many people can’t afford to buy alcohol from state-approved shops.

Producers often mix liquor with cheap chemicals to increase potency and profit.

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