A batch of toxic illegal alcohol in India has killed at least 34 people with more than 100 others rushed to hospital, Tamil Nadu state officials told reporters on Thursday.

The deadly mix of locally brewed arrack drink was laced with poisonous methanol, chief minister M.K. Stalin said, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Stalin said arrests have been made over the deaths and warned such crimes “ruin society and will be suppressed with an iron fist”, according to a statement from his office.

Hundreds of people die every year in India from cheap alcohol made in backstreet distilleries.

In order to increase its potency the liquor is often spiked with methanol which can cause blindness, liver damage and death.

In the Tamil Nadu case, more than 100 people were hospitalised according to M.S. Prasanth, a top government official in the state’s Kallakurichi district, quoted by Indian media.

State governor R.N. Ravi was “deeply shocked” at the deaths, adding that “many more victims are in serious condition battling for [their] lives”, writing on social media platform X.

Tamil Nadu is not a dry state, but liquor traded on the black market comes at a lower price than alcohol sold legally.

Selling and consuming liquor is prohibited in several other parts of India, further driving the thriving black market for potent and sometimes lethal backstreet moonshine.

Last year, poisonous alcohol killed at least 27 people in one sitting in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, while in 2022, at least 42 people died in Gujarat.

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