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In A Matter Of Minutes, Three Men Suffocated To Death Inside Open Sewer, DJB Says 'Not Our Staff'

07/08/2017 1:36 PM IST | Updated 07/08/2017 1:36 PM IST
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REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE: Indian workers clear blocked drains following heavy rain and flooding in Ahmedabad on July 3, 2017.

Three men cleaning a 10-foot-deep sewer in south Delhi's Lajpat Nagar without any safety gear suffocated to death after inhaling toxic fumes within minutes of each other. It is due to the intervention of a crowd of onlookers that the fourth man who tried to save the others, is still alive. On Monday, a Delhi Jal Board official said the men were not DJB staff, however a probe has been ordered.

According to eye-witness Vishnu Mandal, a mason, the labourers were "shouting frantically to someone trapped inside the manhole."

Mandal told the Hindustan Times, "When I peeped inside, one man was lying motionless. He was already dead, but his friend wanted to help him and jumped inside. Within seconds, the second man too began suffocating and throwing his limbs around."

"When I peeped inside, one man was lying motionless. He was already dead, but his friend wanted to help him and jumped inside. Within seconds, the second man too began suffocating and throwing his limbs around."

Another man entered the sewer later to check up on the two, but he did not come out either following which the contractor, who had been assigned the cleaning job, came there and sent a fourth man in the sewer, PTI reported. However, at this point, the alarmed crowd stopped the fourth person from entering the toxic pit without any safety gear. He tied a rope around himself and entered the sewer, but when he started to lose consciousness too, the crowd pulled him out.

They three were rushed to the AIIMS Trauma Centre where the doctors declared them "brought dead". Two of the deceased were identified as Joginder (32) and Annu (28), while the identity of the third victim was yet to be ascertained, PTI quoted the police as saying. The fourth worker, identified as Rajesh, is critical.

DCP (southeast), Romil Baaniya, told the Indian Express that the police are looking into the role of the contractor.

"The labourers were sent inside without any masks and a case will be made against the contractor. Based on the statement of the fourth labourer, who is out of danger, we have registered a case under IPC Section 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder). Investigation is underway," he said.

This is what the DJB had to say: "They were not our staff. However, we have ordered a probe to find out how these men entered the sewer without authorization."

Why a fourth person was sent in by the contractor, without a gas mask, to rescue three colleagues who had clearly asphyxiated, is something the police should look into. In July, four sanitation workers died when they had entered a septic tank to clean it in south Delhi's Vasant Kunj.

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