Assam hooch tragedy death toll rises to 25

Guwahati (IANS) At least 25 persons, including 15 women, have died and over 40 others have taken ill after consuming spurious liquor at a tea garden in Assam's Golaghat district, the police said on Friday.

The incident took place on Thursday night at the Salmora tea estate in Golaghat, 300 km from here.

"The death toll so far is 25, which includes 15 women and 10 men. While 18 people died at the Golaghat Civil Hospital, the rest breathed their last at the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital," said Rathin Bordoloi, Joint Director of Health, Golaghat district.

He said the people were brought to the hospitals with complaints of severe vomiting and chest pain. "We tried our best, but it was too late," he said.

"A total of 55 people have been referred to the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital for treatment. Seven of them have died while 48 others were still undergoing treatment," said the doctors at the Jorhat hospital. 

The locals said several people consumed liquor in the tea estate on Thursday night after procuring the stock from a particular seller. Several of them took ill immediately and many were not even taken to the hospital.

They also complained about a nexus between the police and the illegal liquor sellers.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal condemned the incident and sent a team to the district to take stock of the situation.

State Excise Minister Parimal Shuklabaidya has ordered a probe into the matter.

"The state government has suspended two excise officials after holding them responsible for the tragedy. We have also asked a four-member team, led by Additional Commissioner of Excise Department Sanjib Medhi, to probe the incident," said Shuklabaidya, adding that the probe committee has been asked to submit its report to the government within three days.

"Based on the inquiry report, stern measures will be taken across the state to plug the loopholes," Shuklabaidya said.

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