KARACHI, Sept 20: At least 18 people died after drinking toxic liquor in different localities of the city on Thursday. Over 30 other affected people were hospitalised, some of them in a serious condition.

Sindh Health Minister Sardar Ahmed told Dawn that the victims belonged to the Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities and they had consumed the poisonous liquor on Wednesday night.

“Twenty-two affected people were brought from Railway Colony, Mithadar, to the Civil Hospital Karachi, where six of them died and four others were in a critical condition,” he said.

The minister said ten people died at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. “They were brought to the facility from different localities.”

Mr Ahmed said the victims had drunk illegally made liquor, adding that at least five affected people were still hospitalised at the JPMC.

“The source of the contaminated liquor is apparently the same,” he said.

DIG South Javed Ali Shah Bukhari told Dawn that the victims had bought the toxic liquor somewhere in the Mehmoodabad police limits. “The area SHO has been suspended and an investigation is under way,” he said.

The deputy director of the JPMC’s emergency centre, Dr Seemin Jamali, said the victims started arriving at the facility in the early hours of Thursday. “They were brought in at different times and from different localities in a highly critical condition,” she added.

She said eight of the nine victims brought to the facility died, while one affected person was still unconscious.

Those who died at the Civil Hospital were identified as Akhlaq, Krishan, Arshad, Boota Masih, Khalid and Shafqat. The victims’ ages ranged between 25 and 45.

JPMC sources said Suresh was from Masoom Shah Colony, Shaukat from Kashmir Colony, Dost Mohammed and Raees Uddin from Hazara Colony, Parkarsh from Jutland Lines and Mohammed Ashraf and Gopal from the Frere area, Ibadat, Mohammad Ali and Zaigham.

Civil Hospital sources said the bodies of two victims were taken away by their families without allowing legal formalities to be carried out. They identified the victims as Rashid Munawwar and Javed, residents of Railway Colony.

A relative of one of the victims, who wished to remain unidentified, told Dawn that the toxic liquor was bought at a den in Chenesar Goth in the Mehmoodabad police limits. “They bought the Kuppi (illegally made liquor) yesterday and their condition started deteriorating shortly after they consumed it,” he added.

Police said the victims, including sanitary workers, belonged to low-income families.

Saddar SP Tahir Naveed said the preliminary investigation had revealed that the victims had bought the contaminated liquor in Chenesar Goth. “We have formed an inquiry team to investigate the matter,” he added.

The SP said it appeared that the business of illegally made liquor thrived due to the closure of licensed liquor shops during Ramazan. “Addicted drinkers buy such stuff from dubious establishments and such incidents take place every year,” he said.

Meanwhile, sources said the sale of Kuppi and Tharra – two types of illegally made liquor – was rampant in certain parts of the city such as Chenesar Goth, Kala Pull, Lyari, Machchar Colony, Sohrab Goth, Malir Mander and Chakiwara.

They said the users sometime mixed the red-coloured Kuppi with transparent Tharra to intensify the effect of the stuff, but the mixture often became toxic.

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