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Liquor tragedy claims five lives

By Our Staff Reporter

PALAKKAD FEB. 13. Liquor tragedy has struck the State again. Five persons were killed and seven admitted to hospitals after consuming toddy laced with poison on Wednesday night, allegedly brought from Kammamthara, near Olassery, in Peruvambu panchayat, near here.

The tragedy struck the Kammamthara Lakshamveedu Colony and adjacent households when a group of 19 persons consumed the drink allegedly stolen from a toddy-tapping coconut grove nearby. The toddy contained some pesticide, allegedly laced in the drink to prevent frequent stealing of toddy from tree top mud vessels at night.

Two toddy tappers, Selven and his brother Thankkan from Tamil Nadu, were found absconding from the coconut grove where they lived. Police arrested the wife of Selvan from her house on Thursday morning.

The toddy tapped from the grove is usually supplied to the contractor, Anandan, at Navarassi, 8 km from Olassery.

The dead were Ponmala (28), Manikandan (23), Vijayan (27), Vasu (38), and Rajan alias Subramaniaym (32). Four of them died in Thrissur Medical College Hospital and one on the way to the hospital. Four of them were labourers belonging to the Scheduled Castes.

Those undergoing treatment in Thrissur Medical College Hospital (MCH) are Prema (24), wife of Vasu, Sasi (24), Kalyani (50), wife of Arru, three-year-old Shinu who was given a few drops of toddy, Thevan (60) of Karippode, who came there as a guest, and Manikkan (28). Shantha (22), wife of Paraman, who is pregnant, has been admitted to the labour room of the Palakkad District Hospital.

Police and Excise officials have taken the samples of the toddy for chemical examination.

The Inspector General of Police (Northern Range), Venugopal Nair, the District Collector, X. Anil, and other top officials visited the scene. The Collector has sanctioned Rs.1,000 each to the members of the families of those dead and Rs.500 to those undergoing treatment.

The postmortem was conducted at the MCH and bodies handed over to the relatives.

It is learned that a high-level inquiry is being ordered by the State Government into the tragedy.

Minister visits victims

Our Staff Reporter writes from Thrissur:

Among those undergoing treatment, the condition of Sasi and Thevan is reported to be critical. According to the MCH Superintendent, Praveenlal, the remaining, Manikkan, Prema, Kalyani and Shinu, are not out of danger because of the specific nature of the case. In such cases, there is a possibility of the poison that has entered the fat cells making a reverse flow and this can have the effect of a second poisoning. However, the condition of the child appears to be more stable.

He said that from available indications the poison is organo-phosphate, an outright insecticide.

From the accounts of the bystanders, an empty bottle of poison has been recovered from the site.

Enzymes of the patients have been sent for analysis and the results will be known by Friday.

Meanwhile, the Health Minister, P. Sankaran, visited the patients at the MCH and instructed the hospital authorities to provide all necessary help to them.

The Minister said the question of sanctioning more assistance will be discussed with the Chief Minister and the Finance Minister.

He said the Excise and Police Departments would conduct detailed investigations into the tragedy.

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