NEW DELHI (XINHUA) – The death toll in the toxic liquor consumption incident in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has risen to 22, officials said on Saturday (May 29).

The incident took place in Aligarh district, about 416km north-west of Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh.

“So far, 22 people have died after consuming toxic liquor here,” said an official at the district magistrate office.

“Some of the people who have been hospitalised after complaining of illness following consumption of the liquor are undergoing treatment.”

According to officials, the victims bought the liquor from licensed shops on Thursday evening and the deaths began on Friday.

The authorities have sealed five liquor stores in connection with the incident and suspended some officials from the excise department, including district excise officer Dheeraj Sharma, for laxity leading to the tragedy.

The district magistrate has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

“Three separate cases have been registered in three police station areas (relating to) deaths due to consumption of spurious liquor,” a police official said.

“Police teams have been formed to arrest the accused and some people have been detained for questioning.”

Officials at the magistrate’s office said the government was mulling over strict action against the guilty.

Meanwhile, the authorities have seized samples of liquor from the shops and sent them for laboratory examination.

In 2019, around 100 people died in a hooch tragedy in Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring Uttarakhand.

Deaths from consumption of spurious alcohol are often reported in India, where people frequently drink cheap country-made bootleg liquor.