NEW DELHI (NEWSnet/AP) — At least 34 people have died and dozens are hospitalized after drinking illegally brewed liquor in southern India, local media reported on Thursday.

The state's chief minister M K Stalin said the 34 died after consuming liquor that was tainted with methanol, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

The incident occurred in the Kallakurichi district of the state of Tamil Nadu, where more than 100 people are being treated in various hospitals, top district official M S Prasanth said. He added that the number of those who are in critical condition keeps changing, suggesting that the death toll could rise.

Ambulances, doctors and specialists from nearby areas were sent to the district.

Government officials earlier said several people who were vomiting and had stomach pain were admitted to hospitals Wednesday, triggering a police investigation.

Later that day, Stalin, the chief minister, said in a post on social media platform X that those involved in the crime have been arrested, and action has also been taken against officials who failed to prevent it.

Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India, as an alternative to licensed brands from government-run shops. The illicit liquor, which is often spiked with chemicals such as pesticides to increase potency, has become a hugely profitable industry as bootleggers pay no taxes while selling enormous quantities of their product at a cheap rate.

In 2022, more than 30 people died in eastern India's Bihar state after allegedly drinking tainted liquor sold without authorization. Earlier that same year, at least 28 died from drinking altered liquor in Gujarat state.

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