The victims were said to have consumed unregulated moonshine, known locally as “country-made liquor.”
“We have arrested two people, but we are still investigating their role in the incident,” said Partha Pratim Saikia, a senior official with the police in the Golaghat district in the northeastern state of Assam.
The first cases, reported Thursday evening, indicated most victims were tea garden workers, said Manoj Baruah, an official in Jorhat, the other district where cases were reported.
“It is a case of alcohol poisoning, and it has affected a few tea gardens and villages surrounding them in this district,” Saikia said.
People are still arriving at Jorhat hospital for treatment, with extra medical staff called in to help handle patients, Baruah told CNN.
Illicit booze is cheaper but can kill
The incident is the latest in India’s long battle to control fake or illegal alcohol, which is affordable and readily available to many impoverished people.
Country-made liquor often contains toxic methanol, which can make people feel inebriated. However, even a very small amount can be toxic. Methanol poisoning can cause confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, headaches and the inability to coordinate muscle movements.