SANGRAMPUR, India

- Bootleg liquor containing toxic methanol has killed 143 people and sickened dozens more who drank the cheap, illicit brew bought at small shops in eastern India, officials said yesterday. Police have arrested 10 suspected bootleggers.

Medical teams rushed to the village outside Kolkata, and thousands of relatives, many of them wailing in grief, gathered outside the packed hospital. Inside, dead bodies lay on the floor covered in quilts, while the ill waited on staircases to be treated. Groups of men sat in the halls with saline drips running into their arms.

Abdul Gayen cried inconsolably for his son Safiulla, a laborer who drank some of the liquor Monday night and then complained of lightheadedness. When Safiulla woke up the next morning, he fell and began frothing at the mouth, Gayen said. He died before his family could get him to the hospital.

"Safiulla was the lone bread-earner in our family. I don't know what will happen to us now," he said. Illegal liquor operations flourish in the slums of urban India and among the rural poor, who can't afford the alcohol at state-sanctioned shops.