Toxic liquor kills at least 32 in Pakistan

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Relatives mourn one of the dead men after the Christmas drinks party

(BBC) At least 32 people have died and dozens have been left seriously ill after drinking toxic alcohol over Christmas in Punjab in Pakistan, officials say.

The dead, mostly minority Christians, consumed the homemade liquor in the city of Toba Tek Singh.

Muslims are forbidden from buying or drinking alcohol in Pakistan – and minorities need a permit to buy liquor.

With alcohol sales tightly regulated, cheap homebrewed spirits often contain poisonous methanol.

It’s the latest case of deadly alcohol poisoning in Pakistan after 11 died in October, also in Punjab province.

Police officer Mohammad Nadeem told BBC Urdu that 25 people were still being treated in hospitals in Toba Tek Singh and Faisalabad to have their stomachs pumped.

“The men who belong to the Christian community drank liquor on the night of 25 December and went home. Tragedy struck the next morning when many did not rise from their beds, while others got sick,” he said.

He said two local Muslim men had been asked to buy alcohol for the party.

“The local sellers were out of stock so they went and bought it from somewhere else. Both have died.”

Police are questioning a number of locals to find out where the alcohol was made and sold.

Because of Pakistan’s liquor regulations, many people illegally brew alcohol at home, and there have been several cases of mass poisonings in the past – in 2014 some 40 people died within a few days as a result of drinking tainted alcohol in Sindh.

Distilling alcohol safely requires precise conditions to ensure methanol, or methyl alcohol, is separated from the drink.

Hundreds of people have also died in mass alcohol poisoning incidents in neighbouring India in recent years.

Last week dozens of people died in the Russian city of Irkutsk after drinking a bath lotion which contained alcohol.

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