With manholes in the state becoming synonymous with death traps, two more persons met a toxic death in yet another manhole mishap on Monday near Ettumanoor in Kottayam.
The deceased were identified by the police as 48-year old Jomon and 36-year old Binoy Joseph. They -along with another person named Aneesh- had just finished cleaning a manhole located at the rear end of the Grand Family restaurant at Kanakkari. They then moved on to another one located in front of the hotel.
But as soon as Binoy entered the second manhole, he reportedly collapsed due to inhalation of toxic gases. Seeing Binoy collapse, Jomon rushed to rescue him only to succumb himself to the gaseous fumes a few minutes later.
It was Aneesh’s cries for help that made the locals and the police rush to the spot, though they could not immediately enter the manhole. Sometime later, a few locals –using a coir rope- were able to bring them to the surface.
Even though they were rushed to the nearby Kottayam Medical College hospital, the duo was declared brought dead by hospital authorities. The Kuruvilangad police station officials have recorded eye-witness statements and an inquest has also been carried out. No case has been registered yet.
While explaining the cause of the accident, a police official –on conditions of anonymity- told The News Minute that the deceased could possibly have consumed alcohol before entering the sewer, though the same could be confirmed only after the results of the forensic tests are made available.
He also added that the workers did not seem to have followed any precautionary methods that are mandatory before undertaking any such cleaning work.
He further raised concerns about the hotel authorities hiring commoners to clean the manhole: “Usually such cleaning work is given to agencies. But in this case, the hotel owner let common folks enter the manhole.”
How can such deaths be avoided?
Ranjith -a programme officer at Suchitwa Mission which is the nodal agency for sanitation in Kerala- said that people need to first ensure that protective measures are in place before undertaking any cleaning work which involves entering a manhole or sewer.
According to him, the main reason for such deaths is the lack of sufficient oxygen and presence of toxic gases like methane inside manholes.
To prevent similar accidents in future, he suggests that the manhole be opened at least half an hour before entering it so that the toxic gases present inside the manhole can be released.
Air also has to be passed through air blowers and pumped inside the hole to increase air circulation. If a lit candle -when introduced into the manhole- burns for at least five minutes, it means that oxygen is present.
When asked if the agency would ensure strict implementation of orders to prevent such mishaps, Ranjith opined that the agency could consider issuing guidelines in the public interest, but in reality, they have a limited say in these matters.