Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Thursday, 5 February 2009

Nepal tainted alcohol kills nine

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Nepalese market
Seven of the deaths were as a result of alcohol served at the village market

At least nine people have died in Nepal in the past few days after drinking contaminated alcohol.

A journalist in a small village in southern Nepal said there was an atmosphere of panic, after seven villagers died in the last few days.

All of them had drunk alcohol which was served to them from a drum at a village market on Sunday.

There have been two other similar deaths in the capital and more than a dozen other people are ill.

Drinking the contaminated alcohol has led to headaches, vomiting, prolonged unconsciousness and death.

In the capital, the fatalities have been connected with the consumption of what seemed to be well-known local brands of rum and whisky.

Police in the south have raided some 50 home-brewing sites and arrested a man, who admitted watering down alcohol bought from a distillery.

Local accounts say lethal chemicals had been added, which imparted an accurate smell of alcohol.

Organised rings

In Kathmandu police and inland revenue officials raided production centres several days ago, revealing counterfeit copies of many brands and arresting six people.

Media reports are blaming organised crime circles, which have cross-border links with India, aiming at quick profits.

Both manufactured and home-brewed alcohol is freely available in Nepal, and drinking does not carry the same social stigma it does in other countries of the region.

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