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Surat: Death toll rises to 13 in suspected hooch tragedy

New Delhi:With four more deaths, the toll in the suspected hooch tragedy at Vareli village in the district rose to 13 on Saturday even as the Gujarat government formed a committee to probe the incident. At least six more persons of Vareli village in Palsana tehsil have been admitted to hospitals, said District Development Officer and Collector (in-charge) K Rajesh, adding that a team of medical officers was camping at the village and had set up a control room to provide medical assistance to the villagers.

“The death toll has climbed to 13. Six persons are undergoing treatment, four at a government hospital and two at a private hospital. The exact cause of the deaths is yet to be ascertained, though methanol poisoning is not ruled out,” he said. The Forensic Science Laboratory at Gandhinagar was examining the viscera and other samples of the deceased and the cause of the deaths would be known after receiving its report, said Rajesh.

Surat Collector Mahendra Patel had said on Friday that nine persons had died in the last three days at Vareli and primary medical reports suggested that they died due to consumption of some kind of a poisonous substance like methyl alcohol (which is often found in spurious liquor).

Police said a massive search operation was launched in the area to trace the dens selling hooch. At least six police inspectors, posted in the Surat rural area, were transferred in the aftermath of the incident, they added. Minister of State for Home Pradipsinh Jadeja said the state government had formed a three-member committee to conduct a probe into the incident. It will be headed by ADGP (police reforms) VM Pargi.

Officials did not rule out the possibility of an outbreak of some viral disease as a cause of the deaths. Rajesh said samples had also been sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune to explore the possibility.