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Food Poisoning in India Kills 20 School Children, Death Toll Feared to Rise

Update Date: Jul 17, 2013 02:25 AM EDT

At least 20 children in India have died after eating a free lunch at their school, authorities confirmed on Wednesday, according to the AFP.

Bihar state authorities say at least 27 students other students were hospitalized after eating the food Tuesday at a primary school in Masrakh, about 90 kilometers north of Patna, the state capital. Ten of those children are in critical condition.

"It is sad but true that 20 children died after eating their midday meal, which appears to be poisonous," Bihar state education minister P K Shahi told AFP.

The death toll rose from eight on Tuesday and some 30 more children were still sick in hospital in the state capital Patna, the minister added.

The food poisoning took place at a government school in the village of Masrakh in Saran district.

A probe has been launched and 200,000 rupees ($3,370) in compensation offered to the families of each of the dead.

At least 28 children that were sick after eating the free food were taken to hospitals in the nearby town of Chhapra and the state capital, Patna, after the incident.

There are fears the death toll could rise as some of the children, all below the age of 12, are critically ill.

Free meals are offered to impoverished students in state-run schools as part of the government welfare measures in many of India's 29 states. Bihar is regarded as one of India's poorest states and is also the most populous.

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