Twenty-one labourers died after drinking toxic homemade liquor in northern India, police said Sunday, in the latest incident of alcohol poisoning in the country.
Police in Uttar Pradesh state's Etah district said the victims started to vomit and fall sick, complaining of severe stomach aches and blurred vision after consuming the illicit moonshine late Friday.
Earlier the toll was reported at 17, with 12 people hospitalised. However four of those have since died, police said.
"Four more people succumbed to the poisoning. The total deaths are 21 now," senior district police officer, Visarjan Singh Yadav, told AFP by telephone, adding that others remain ill in hospital.
A police officer told AFP that a local vendor was arrested late Saturday after police registered a formal case against him for culpable homicide.
"The vendor obviously mixed some chemical in the last batch... police are investigating the matter," the officer, who requested anonymity, told AFP without specifying the chemical used in this case.
Bootleggers are often found adding methanol - a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an anti-freeze or fuel - in their home-brew liquor to increase the alcoholic content of the drink.
If ingested, it can cause blindness and liver damage and can kill in larger concentrations.
The Press Trust of India reported locals saying that six people had lost their eyesight after drinking the tainted alcohol.
The incident prompted state chief minister Akhilesh Yadav to suspend five district officials, including two police officers, for neglect of duty.
He has offered 200,000 rupees ($3,000) in compensation to the families of those killed.
Hundreds of poor people die every year in India due to alcohol poisoning, mostly from consuming cheap hooch.
Most of Friday night's victims were daily wage labourers and farmers too poor to afford branded alcohol who would usually buy a cheap mix from bootleggers after work.
In April, eight people died including two soldiers after drinking tainted liquor in the western desert state of Rajasthan.
More than 100 people died in Mumbai last year after drinking illegal homemade moonshine in a slum.
Nearly three billion litres of legal liquor and an estimated two billion litres of hooch are consumed in India annually, according to the International Spirits and Wines Association.