Quito, Ecuador: Bootleg Liquor Kills 21 People In Town: UPDATED

18 Jul

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Authorities in Ecuador have banned the sale of alcohol in a community where 21 people have died after drinking bootleg liquor.

Public Health Minister David Chiriboga says 103 others have been treated for intoxication from adulterated alcohol in the coastal municipality of Urdaneta in Los Rios province, where eight were initially reported dead.

Chiriboga says police have seized 28 containers each with 55 gallons of alcohol contaminated with methanol. Methyl alcohol is a toxic substance sometimes used to illegally produce cheap liquor.

The health minister said Sunday that a law prohibiting the sale or consumption of alcohol has been in effect since Saturday in the area. The owner of the alcohol is being sought by police.

NEWS UPDATE: RELATED ARTICLE:

Gujarat Narendra Modi bootlegging deaths

The Gujarat state chief minister, Narendra Modi, is facing calls to quit following the deaths of 107 people after drinking toxic bootleg alcohol. Photograph: Siddharth Darshan Kumar/AP

One of India‘s leading politicians faced calls hasfor his resignation after more than 100 people died from drinking bootleg alcohol in the western state of Gujarat.

The victims, mostly from the slums of Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, began dying at the start of the week. The death toll has risen to 112 in Gujarat’s worst case of moonshine poisoning in a decade. Last year, nearly 170 people died after drinking toxic liquor in southern India.

The affair has escalated into a political crisis for Narendra Modi, a member of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) and the state’s chief minister, whose appeals for calm have failed to quell public anger.

Such is the scale of the tragedy, doctors have been rushed from across the state to Ahmedabad to help treat 150 critically ill patients in three hospitals.

“The [intensive care unit] is full of these patients and there are about 60 outside in various wards,” an intern at one hospital told the Times of India newspaper.

“The last time the state witnessed a liquor tragedy of this scale was in 1989, when 132 people were killed in a matter of days,” he added.

As the death toll rises, so has public anger. Amid accusations that police abetted in bootlegging, hundreds of protesters attacked buses with sticks, threw stones at police and burned effigies of Modi, already a deeply divisive figure because of his hardline Hinduism. Members of a women’s rights group raided a bootlegging shop on Thursday, destroyed the alcohol stocks and handed the owner over to police.

“If the police don’t take action we will move in,” said Meena Patel, a member of the group, known as Sakhi Mandal.

The state parliament has also been in uproar, with opposition members ripping microphones from their desks and hurling them at ruling party MPs.

“The police is hand in glove with the bootleggers and that’s how [the illegal business] has proliferated, resulting in this tragedy,” said the state opposition leader, Shakti Singh Goel, of Congress.

The party demanded the resignation of Modi and home minister Amit Shah, whose ministry oversees the state police force.

Modi “has forfeited the right to rule Gujarat in the face of such a massive tragedy”, said Siddharth Patel, another Congress leader.

Modi, who earned notoriety in 2002 when he was accused of failing to halt one of India’s worst outbreaks of communal violence, has appealed for calm.

“I appeal to the citizens of Ahmedabad for calm and promise to take deterrent action against the guilty,” he said.

Under public pressure to crack down on illegal booze, police raided illegal alcohol outlets and rounded up more than 800 alleged bootleggers. They have also arrested the alleged main supplier of the deadly alcohol.

Authorities have asked a retired judge to investigate the deaths and suspended six police officers for negligence. However, activists accuse officers and politicians of taking bribes and turning a blind eye to the bootlegging.

Selling and consuming alcohol is a criminal offence in Gujarat, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi and India’s only dry state.

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