CHENNAI: In yet another tragic incident, a 44-year-old manual scavenger was asphyxiated by toxic fumes when he entered into septic tank in the house of a retired police sub-inspector at Puzhal on Tuesday.
This is the third incident in Chennai in the last four months.
The latest victim P Babu, a resident of NSK Road in Puzhal, the sole breadwinner of the family, is father of four children.
According to eyewitnesses, P Babu ventured into the septic tank through its hardly one-and-half feet wide opening around 12.30 pm. “We both used to take turns to venture into the tanks. It was actually my turn on Tuesday. Since the opening was so small, I could not go inside. So instead, since he was lean, he volunteered to go inside,” said Babu’s childhood friend and coworker Anna Durai.
Generally, while the sludge was pumped out, one of the workers would go inside to ensure that not just the liquid but also the solid part was pumped out.
When they realised Babu lost consciousness and another teenager S Babu (19), who went to assist him, was leaning on to the tank’s manhole, they understood Babu was attacked by a strong spell of toxic fume from the tank.
The workers frantically poured water into the tank to contain the spread of toxic fumes. But it was of little help. The workers could not pull Babu outside. The Fire Services Department was alerted. But all they could do was pull out Babu’s body as he seemed to have been asphyxiated by toxic fumes.
Durai said both he and Babu knew that they were risking death whenever they entered septic tanks. But “we had no other choice,” he noted.
Babu had to earn money as he had to sustain the family with four children. The workers, on an average, get paid in the range of `700 to `800 for a day’s work. . His eldest son Gokul is studying B.Com. His daughter Sathya Priya, a class XII student, had gone to school to write the board exams on Tuesday. She returned home to hear the bad news about her father.
Two teenage sons are studying in schools. Puzhal police have registered a case of unnatural death.