At least 25 Indian children died and dozens needed hospital treatment after apparently being poisoned by a school meal, sparking violent protests and angry allegations of blame.
The children, aged four to 12, fell ill yesterday after consuming a lunch of rice, soybean and lentils in the impoverished eastern state of Bihar.
The school, at Mashrakh village in the district of Chapra, provided free meals under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the world's largest school feeding programme, involving 120 million children.
Medical teams treating the children said they suspected the food had been contaminated with insecticide.
"It appears to be a case of poisoning but we will have to wait for forensic reports ... Had it been a case of [natural] food poisoning, so many children would not have died," Poonam Kumari, local government administrator at the village, told Reuters by phone from Mashrakh.
"The administration has helped cremate 21 children and, unfortunately, four more children have to be cremated," she said, adding that the remainder of a total of 48 children who consumed the contaminated food were being treated in Patna.
"We feel that some kind of insecticide was either accidentally or intentionally mixed in the food, but that will be clear through investigations," said RK Singh, medical superintendent at the children's hospital in the state capital Patna.
"We prepared antidotes and treated the children for organophosphorous poisoning," he said.
Organophosphorus compounds are used as pesticides.
The state government said it was investigating the cause of the disaster.