At least 22 children died and more than two dozen others were sick after eating a free school lunch that was tainted with insecticide, Indian officials said Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear how chemicals ended up in the food in a school in the eastern state of Bihar. One official said the food may not have been properly washed before it was cooked.

The children, between the ages of 5 and 12, fell ill Tuesday soon after eating lunch in Gandamal village in Masrakh block, 50 miles north of the state capital of Patna. School authorities immediately stopped serving the meal of rice, lentils, soybeans and potatoes as the children started vomiting.

Savita, a 12-year-old student who uses only one name, said she had a stomach ache after eating soybeans and potatoes and started vomiting.

“I don’t know what happened after that,” Savita said in an interview at Patna Medical College Hospital, where she and many other children were recovering.

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