Three construction workers died and nine fell sick yesterday after drinking isopropyl alcohol, a disinfectant, on Tuesday night at BSCIC industrial estate.
They diluted half-a-litre of the substance with water and drank after work hoping to relax.
Bokul, 35, and Tohijul, 26, died at home yesterday morning while Dulal, 22, died at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital (RMCH) in the afternoon.
Hearing about the deaths, families of other workers, who are from Dayingpara Chabbisnagar village in Godagari upazila, took them to RMCH, Hipjur Alam Munshi, officer-in-charge of Godagari Police Station, said.
Six of the workers are admitted at RMCH.
The 12 labourers had been working at a chemical warehouse of Team Pharmaceuticals Ltd for the past few months, he said.
Khan Jahan Ali, one of the workers, said some of them managed to steal half-a-litre of the chemical from the warehouse on Tuesday and thought they could drink it.
“We heard alcohol was kept in drums there. I read the word alcohol on a label. We took it out for fun and drank it together on our way back home.”
He added that one of them tasted a few drops of the chemical and thought it was edible.
The workers then diluted the substance with water and drank it while returning home on three-wheelers.
Medical officers at RMCH said they slept for a long time and suffered headache, itching, nausea, blurry vision, and breathing difficulties.
Parvez, another ailing worker said the plant was a highly secured area with CCTV cameras.
Aminur Rahman, in-charge of the warehouse, said the highly flammable isopropyl alcohol is used mainly for cleaning and disinfecting.
“We could not detect any stealing until hearing about the deaths,” he told The Daily Star.
Sakib Uddin who hired the workers for a construction site of Team Pharmaceuticals Ltd, said the workers were allowed to store cement at the warehouse.
“They were instructed not to touch anything but cement.”
Their bodies were sent to RMCH morgue for autopsy.
Teams of police and narcotics control department officials visited RMCH and the warehouse.
Police picked up four officials of the pharmaceutical company and released them after interrogation, Amir Jafar, deputy commissioner of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police, said.
He added that police were waiting for reports of autopsies and several chemical tests.