Thirty-four people have now died after drinking toxic home-made liquor on Christmas Eve, officials said on Wednesday, one of the deadliest cases of mass alcohol poisoning in Pakistan.
The incident happened in a Christian neighborhood in the town of Toba Tek Singh.
“The death toll has risen to 34 as 10 more people affected by toxic liquor died overnight,” said Dr. Asif Mehmood Saleemi, the administrator of state-run District Headquarters hospital.
Saleemi said 105 people sickened by toxic liquor have so far reported to hospital. Some have been sent to bigger hospitals in the town of Gojra and Faisalabad.
Police on Wednesday said they had caught three men accused of preparing the tainted liquor. “Four people have been identified who prepared and distributed the toxic liquor,” said senior police official Atif Imran, who is investigating the case, adding the group had also consumed the alcohol themselves. “One of them died because of the liquor, two others are in critical condition while the fourth is in police custody,” he added.
The suspect in police custody confessed to preparing the brew by mixing it with 20 liters of aftershave and other chemicals. The development was confirmed by another senior police official Usman Akram Gondal.
Though legal breweries exist in Pakistan, alcohol sales and consumption are banned for Muslims and tightly regulated for minorities and foreigners. While wealthy Pakistanis buy foreign alcohol on the black market at heavily inflated prices, the poor often resort to home brews that can contain methanol, commonly used in anti-freeze and fuel.
Eleven Christians died in October after consuming toxic liquor at a party in Punjab province. In October 2014, 29 drinkers were killed after consuming methanol-tainted liquor over the Eid holidays.