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Sunday, May 9, 1999 Published at 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK

World: South Asia

Deadly whisky claims 113 lives

A woman mourns the loss of her husband to the lethal drink

Doctors in Bangladesh say 113 people have now died after drinking poisonous home-brewed alcohol.

The latest figure includes a further 27 who died in hospital on Sunday.

The first fatalities were reported in the eastern town of Narsingdi about 80km (50 miles) north of the capital, Dhaka, on Thursday.

The police have arrested six people for selling the poisonous liquor and have closed down several shops.

Officials say at least 200 people are thought to have bought the cheap whisky laced laced with methyl alcohol to boost its intoxicating effect.

Two other vendors are reported to be amongst the dead.

Delays cost lives

More than 100 people are still critically ill in hospital in Dhaka after being transferred from Narsingdi. One doctor said more victims could have been saved if they had been taken to hospital earlier.

"Those who will survive are likely to go blind or suffer kidney damage," said Ahsan Kabir, a doctor at state-run Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

Officials say the total death toll may never be fully known because some deaths at home may go unreported.

Doctors say most of the dead died of respiratory paralysis.

"Most of the victims came from low income families," said Anil Chandra Ghose, a Narsingdi municipal official adding that the liquor concerned cost only 10 taka ($0.21) per glass.

Worst case

At least 200 people have died after drinking home made alcohol over the last 18 months, but this is believed to be the worst single outbreak.

A BBC correspondent in Dhaka, Kamal Ahmed, says the selling of liquor in mainly Muslim Bangladesh is restricted to foreigners and those who can provide medical reasons with many homeopathic doctors using alcohol in the preparation of medicine.

Nonetheless illegally produced alcohol is widely available.

The government says it has formed a three-man committee to investigate the latest incident and ordered it to produce it initial report within a week.

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