Saturday, November 15, 2008

Three perish in City manhole - Deccan Herald

Deccan Herald - Three perish in City manhole
Pathetic worker safety standards came to the fore yet again, as two labourers and a good samaritan autorickshaw driver breathed their last struggling for air inside a 30-feet manhole at Yelahanka New Town here on Friday.

The workers were on an underground drain cleanup job on a Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) contract, while the driver had tried to rescue them.

Standard safety procedures were apparently not strictly followed, before the labourers went down.

Narasimhamurthy (30), a resident of Laggere, and Amaresh were the labourers and Srinivas (26), a resident of Cauvery street, Attur Layout was the unfortunate driver.

BWSSB had engaged the services of contractor, Gangadhar to clean all the drains in Yelahanka New Town.

Gangadhar had employed several labourers for the purpose. The cleaning work at the accident site on 4th Phase Road began on Friday morning.

Narasimhamurthy, Amaresh and a few other workers got busy. But when the others broke for lunch and departed, the duo chose to stay back. This proved costly.

The duo got into the 30-ft drain through the manhole using a ladder. But once inside, they started screaming for help, apparently due to suffocation and foul smell. The oxygen content in the air below was very low, and poisonous gases were apparently still potent inside.

Autorickshaw driver Srinivas, who was passing by the road, heard the screams and immediately went down the manhole.

The duo were struggling for breath by the time Srinivas reached them. Soon, the breathlessness caught him too and he failed in his efforts to lift the duo. Within the next few minutes, all the three collapsed and died, said the police.

A few onlookers who had noticed Srinivas entering the manhole, grew suspicious after he failed to return. They alerted the police, who rushed to the spot informing Karnataka State Fire and Emergency officials. The bodies were later lifted and shifted to the Dr BR Ambedkar Medical Hospital.

Srinivas, who died while attempting to rescue the two labourers, was the eldest son in a large family. A native of Kolar, he had the added responsibility of looking after his 10 younger brothers. Narasimhamurthy left behind his wife and son.

IT-BT Minister, Katta Subramanya Naidu visited the spot and announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to the kin and kith of the deceased. The Yelahanka New Town police booked a case of negligence against two BWSSB engineers, Somashekhar and Nagendra and contractor Gangadhar.

Cloud over safety procedures

A top BWSSB official, while stating that the exact cause of the accident was yet to be ascertained, maintained that the precautions to be adopted were clear.

Before any workers enters a manhole, the lid should be opened and the Hydrochloric acid in the air inside allowed to escape for 30 minutes.

“A burning candle is placed at the entrance of the manhole.” If the candle gets extinguished, it means the poisonous gas is still present. Workers are permitted to go inside only if the candle continues to burn. Two officials of the Waste Management department had been suspended.

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