At least 34 people have died after consuming toxic bootleg alcohol in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, officials said.

The incident took place in Kallakuruchi district where several residents fell ill after consuming the liquor on Tuesday night.

At least 80 people are being treated in hospitals for illnesses such as excessive diarrhoea and officials say the death toll could rise further.

Two people have been arrested so far and a wider investigation is underway.

Authorities have also suspended a senior police official and ten members of the state’s prohibition enforcement wing – which overseas the smuggling of illicit alcohol in the state – for negligence.

Dozens of people die in India each year after drinking bootleg alcohol from backstreet distilleries.

Bootleggers often add methanol – a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an anti-freeze – to their mixture to increase its strength.

If ingested in even small quantities, methanol can cause blindness, liver damage and death.

In Kallakuruchi, the accused allegedly sold the concoction in packets through a local vendor, according to the News Minute website.

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