Ten people died when they consumed alcohol-based hand sanitiser in Andhra Pradesh's Prakasam district in the last two days, the police said.
The tragedy took place in Kurichedu town. While one person was died late on Wednesday night, two people succumbed at Darsi government hospital on Thursday night and seven others on Friday morning.
Three of the deceased are believed to be beggars and the remaining are the local slum dwellers. In all, 20 people believed to have consumed sanitiser in the last two days.
The deceased have been identified as Anugonda Srinu (25), Bhogem Tirupataiah (35), Guntaka Rami Reddy (60), Kadiam Ramanaiah (28), Raja Reddy (65), Ramanaiah (65), Babu (40), Charles (45), Augustine (45) and S K Syeda (25).
Prakasam district Superintendent of Police (SP) Siddharth Kaushal told HT that these people had consumed sanitiser due to non-availability of liquor as there was a lockdown in force in Kurichedu to contain the spread of Covid-19.
"We have seized all the sanitiser bottles from the local shops and sent them for lab tests. Preliminary inquiries revealed that all of them had consumed pure sanitiser solution. Further details would be known after obtaining the post mortem reports," the SP said, adding that he had ordered for a thorough investigation by a senior police official.
It started with one beggar at a local Goddess Durga temple complaining of severe burning sensation in his stomach. He succumbed while being taken to the hospital on Wednesday night.
On Thursday morning, two others collapsed due to severe stomach pain. The family members, with the support of locals, shifted them to the government hospital at Darsi town, but they succumbed late in the night. Seven others, who were also admitted to the hospital with similar complaints, died on Friday morning.
Kurichedu and areas around the town have been under lockdown for the last 10 days due to spike in Covid-19 positive cases. All the liquor stores remained closed.
Family members of the victims told the police that they had begun to fall unconscious hours after consuming sanitiser. The quantities of the sanitiser each one of them consumed is not yet known.
The Andhra Pradesh government had reopened the liquor shops on May 4 after a prolonged period of lockdown. Serpentine queues were witnessed at all the outlets across the state.
The state government, however, hiked the rates and reduced the number of outlets with the contention that it would discourage people from resorting to drinking.