By Express News Service

ONGOLE: The death toll in the Kurichedu tragedy, in which people consumed sanitiser as they couldn’t get alcohol, rose to 15 on Saturday, with four more people from the village losing their lives.

Of the 11 who died on Thursday night and Friday, four tested positive for COVID-19, officials said, adding that 20 more people who consumed sanitiser were identified during a house-to-house survey in the village and taken to hospital.

Of the four who died since Friday night, one — Kambhampati Dasu, 57 — passed away while being taken to Darsi hospital. Another person, Maathangi Pedda Subba Rao, 62, who had moved to Guntur and recently returned to Kurichedu to attend a function, fell ill after going back to Guntur, where he succumbed in hospital. He had consumed sanitiser at the function with another victim, M Charles. 

“Yet another victim, Kavuluri Narasaiah, 45, died while being taken to Vinukonda hospital, while Meeniga Nageswara Rao, 45, died on Saturday morning,” G Rami Reddy, Kurichedu sub-inspector of police told TNIE.

The police registered a case and launched an investigation based on a complaint from Kurichedu Village Revenue Officer (VRO) Ch Venkateswara Rao. One B Srinu, who also consumed sanitiser, is being treated at the Ongole GGH, and is said to be in a stable condition.

Meanwhile, post-mortem examinations were conducted at the Darsi government hospital, and four victims were found to have had COVID-19. As the last rites of three of them had already been performed by relatives, medical officials conducted the last rites of the fourth person as per the Covid-19 protocol. Medical teams are collecting samples from relatives and contacts of the deceased who tested positive for the coronavirus.

“In view of the tragedy in Kurichedu, a sanitisation drive has been taken up in the village and medical teams are raising awareness on the impact of consuming sanitiser. A house-to-house survey is being conducted to find if people are suffering from symptoms of COVID-19,” District Medical and Health Officer Dr K Padmavathi said. “We have identified 20 people who consumed sanitiser, and shifted them to the Ongole GGH as a preventive measure,” sources said. 

Drug Control Administration team checking brand of sanitisers, stock

“Besides these 20, some people have very mild symptoms, such as gastritis, and their health condition is stable,” said Dr D Sree Ramulu, GGH Medical Superintendent. Prakasam Superintendent of Police (SP) Siddharth Kaushal set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to ascertain the facts behind the deaths and identify those responsible.

Markapur Officer on Special duty K Chowdeswari will lead the team comprising K Prakasa Rao, DSP Darsi, G Nageswara Reddy, DSP Marakapur, Md Moin, CI Darsi, V Sriram, CI Podili, I Anjaneya Reddy, and CI Addanki. The police earlier seized some bottles of sanitiser from their victims’ houses.

Drugs Control Administration is checking the brands of sanitiser and the stock available at shops in Kurichedu. “There are nine medical stores, and all sell the same brand of sanitiser. We found that there was no clarity on the stock of sanitiser, and have seized all bottles of that brand,” T Venkata Krishna, Drug Inspector, Markapur, said. Samples of the sanitiser will be sent to Vijayawada


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