Mumbai: The death toll from India’s latest incident of mass alcohol poisoning following the consumption of toxic homemade liquor rose to 87 on Saturday, even as the excise department suspended four of its officials in connection with the incident.

According to Mumbai police spokesperson Dhanajay Kulkarni, 87 people have died so far while 34 are undergoing treatment at eight different hospitals across the city.

The victims first started to fall ill in Laxmi Nagar slum near Gamdevi Jurassic Park in Malwani in suburban Malad on Wednesday night. Police have already arrested five accused in the case, but the prime accused—Mainka Bai—is still on the run.

“Earlier too, we had booked Mainka Bai alias Akka in connection with spurious liquor but she managed to get bail," Kulkarni said. The excise officials who were suspended are: Jagdeesh Deshmukh, Rajendra Salunkhe, Versha Vengulkar and Dhanaji Dalvi against whom a departmental inquiry would be launched soon, said state excise department commissioner Shyamsundar Shinde.

“These officials were found to be incompetent and prima facie it is a case of dereliction of duty," Shinde told PTI.

Also, eight personnel attached to Malwani police station have been suspended after the incident.

Earlier, the highest death toll in a hooch tragedy stood at 87 in suburban Vikhroli in December 2005. The excise department in the last one year booked 117 cases of distribution of hooch in Malwani.

Unlicensed liquor is widely consumed across India where it is sometimes sold for less than a dollar for a 25cl bottle, with deaths frequently reported.

It is rare however for such incidents to occur in a major city like Mumbai, with most cases taking place in poor, rural villages.

It is the worst case of its kind to be recorded in Mumbai since 2004 when around 100 people died.

In January, more than 31 people died near Lucknow in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh after drinking a lethal batch of home-brew.

And police arrested 12 people in October 2013 after more than three dozen villagers died from toxic liquor also in Uttar Pradesh.

In 2011 nearly 170 people died in the eastern state of West Bengal after drinking moonshine.

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