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Protests erupt in India after 22 children die after school meal

July 17, 2013 at 3:50 PM

CHHAPRA, India, July 17 (UPI) -- Violent protest erupted in India's Bihar state after 22 children died, and 47 were sickened, after eating a school lunch meal, authorities said.

Four police vehicles were burned during the protests by parents and villagers in Dharmasti Gandaman, near the city of Chhapra, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported, noting the school's meal program provides free food but suffers poor hygiene.

The children, ages 3 to 12, died of food poisoning, district civil surgeon Shambhunath Singh told The Hindu newspaper.

"The children were admitted with symptoms of poisoning such as fever, vomiting, abdominal pain and frothing at the mouth," Singh told The Hindu. The report said the meal consisted of rice, lentils, potato and soybean.

Local people, armed with poles and sticks, blocked streets and railway gates in the Dharmasti Gandaman protest, and a bus was burned, and private property damaged, in Chhapra. Although political parties called for a protest strike, political leaders were chased from the streets by enraged protesters, the BBC said.

K.M. Dubey, doctor at the hospital, said the children's' symptoms of chest congestion and dilated pupils suggested they ingested the crop pesticide organo-phosphorus.

"Looking at the critical condition in which they were brought to the hospital, it seems like there were large quantities of poison in the food they consumed," Dubey said.

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