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Indian police say at least 48 people have died after consuming toxic alcohol in country’s West Bengal state.

Several residents of the Magrahat, Usthi and Mandirbazar areas in South 24 Parganas district fell ill after drinking the alcohol on Tuesday night.

Four people have been arrested.

Some 100 others are being treated in hospital in the Diamond Harbour area, with fears the death toll could rise.

Toxic alcohol deaths are a regular occurrence in India.

Last week, the state of Gujarat brought in a new law making the illegal manufacture and sale of toxic alcohol there punishable by death.

About 70 people are in a critical condition, said state government minister Shyamal Mandal.

“More and more people are turning up with symptoms of liquor poisoning and one local hospital is now overcrowded,” district administrator NS Nigam told the AFP news agency.

Some of the critically ill had been transferred to Calcutta, Shyamal Mandal said.

Medicine and doctors were being rushed to the Diamond Harbour hospital.

Four breweries were ransacked after the deaths began to be reported, AFP quoted officials as saying.

Illegal alcohol – commonly called desi daroo or country-made liquor in India – usually costs as little as 10 rupees (20 US cents) and the majority of the consumers are poor, daily-wage workers.

The liquor is usually spiked with methyl alcohol and industrial spirits which can lead to fits, vomiting and death.

India has witnessed many incidents of toxic alcohol deaths.

• At least 10 people killed in Tamil Nadu in February 2010

• At least 30 people killed in Uttar Pradesh in September 2009

• Some 107 people killed in Gujarat in July 2009

Gujarat has taken the strongest action on toxic liquor with its new law, which it says is intended to deter those involved in the illegal trade.

Gujarat is the only state in India where alcohol is totally prohibited by law.