VILLUPURAM: Manual scavenging led to the death of a 19-year-old boy, while his 40-year-old colleague was battling for life at the Government Medical College Hospital in Mundiampakkam, after entering a sewer here on Friday.
While eyewitnesses said that the workers had no safety gear on, municipal officials refuted the allegations, saying that the death was accidental.
This is the second such incident reported from the State in the span of a week. On Tuesday, four persons were asphyxiated to death in Chennai when they entered a manhole at a restaurant without any safety gear.
According to sources, Anthoniraj (19), a resident of Xavier Colony at Keezhkuppam near here, was a sweeper with the local civic body. On Friday morning, Kakuppam residents complained to the civic body that an underground sewage line in their area was clogged, leading to water spilling over to street.
The officials sent Anthoniraj, Murugadoss (40) and Gopal to unclog the line. When their initial efforts to clean the sewer from the surface proved futile, Anthoniraj decided to enter the 18-foot-deep manhole. After a few minutes, Anthoniraj surfaced with a sandbag that was blocking the passage of water, and went down again to clean the pipeline.
When Anthoniraj failed to come out after several minutes, a worried Murugadoss followed him, but he too failed to turn up. Both had lost consciousness after inhaling the poisonous gases inside the sewer.
Their colleagues immediately informed their higher officials and launched a rescue attempt to fish Anthoniraj and Murugadoss out.
On information, the Villupuram fire and rescue station personnel rushed to the spot and pulled out both Anthoniraj and Murugadoss, who were unconscious.
The duo was taken to the Government Hospital at Villupuram, where the doctors declared Anthoniraj ‘dead on arrival’. After preliminary treatment, Murugadoss was referred to the Government Medical College Hospital in Mundiampakkam.
The Villupuram town police registered a case and were investigating. Municipal officials, including commissioner (in-charge) Selvam rushed to the spot and inquired about the incident. They also called on Murugadoss at the hospital.
Meanwhile, eyewitnesses said that the workers entered the drain without any security equipment, including face mask and boots. They said that none of the civic officials was present to supervise the work. The officials reached the spot only after the workers were fished out by the fire and rescue service personnel.
Refuting the allegations, Municipality commissioner (in-charge) said that proper safety measures had been taken, but Anthoniraj accidentally slipped into the sewer and died. Murugadoss too lost his balance and fell into the drain when he attempted to rescue Murugadoss, the official added.
The commissioner said that Murugadoss was recovering fast. Meanwhile, steps would be taken to adequately compensate the relatives of the deceased, the official added.