Thirty-nine people have died in northern India and more than two dozen others have become ill after drinking alcohol containing toxic methanol.

Chief policeman Ashok Kumar said in two separate incidents that 26 people died in the state of Uttar Pradesh, 306 km east of the capital, New Delhi, while 13 died in the neighboring state of Uttarakhand.

Kumar said the victims drank alcohol during a regular party.

The police arrested eight suspected bootleggers while the provincial government suspended 35 officials, including 12 police officers.

Illegally brewed alcohol deaths are common in India because the poor can not afford licensed brands. Illicit cerebrospinal fluid is cheap and often mixed with chemicals like pesticides to increase its effectiveness.