NAGAPATTINAM: The society may have forsaken manual scavengers by turning a blind eye to the continuing practice, but the camaraderie within the community is inexplicably strong. In a heart-wrenching incident, two contract sanitary workers from Nagapattinam sacrificed their lives to save their colleague stuck inside a drain, on Friday.
The duo allegedly went down the manhole without proper safety gear to rescue their friend, who is now recovering in hospital. Sources say the trio was trying to clear a block in the drain system near Nambiar Nagar road. As attempts from the outside did not yield results, T Sridhar (40) went inside the 6-foot-deep manhole.
As Sridhar looked distressed, and was struggling for breath, his colleagues N Sakthivel (27) and R Madhavan (38) jumped in to save him. Despite being hit by the toxic gas, the duo managed to save their friend and push him out to safety before they collapsed. Meanwhile, the public informed fire service personnel who arrived at the spot within minutes.
The duo found Sridhar clinging near the opening of the manhole and rescued him. A case has been registered in Velipalayam police station and officers are investigating the case.
Complicated rescue effort
Firemen had to go down the manhole to recover the duo stuck inside, but that was not possible while wearing the safety equipment as the opening was too narrow. “We could not go down with the oxygen cylinder on our back. The only way to do it was to go without oxygen, but that was too risky,” said fire personnel R Surendran.
They then tried an innovative solution. They got a municipal water tanker to the spot and dunked the water pipe into the drain to dissipate the poisonous gas that had built up inside the chambers.
Then, Surendran was lowered into the manhole by his colleagues, using ropes. He could not use his oxygen mask.
“It was tricky work. I searched for the duo while staying close to the opening of the manhole.”
Surendran pulled them by their shirts and hauled them up to his colleagues waiting outside, putting his own life at risk. The duo, however, were declared dead when taken to the government hospital.