Four die cleaning storm water pumping station in Ahmedabad, probe on

The pumping station where the four died. (Express photo by Javed Raja)

Four sanitation workers died of asphyxiation after inhaling poisonous gases while cleaning storm water drain pumping station, owned by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), in Odhav area of the city in the wee hours of Sunday.

Police have registered a case of accidental death and are further investigating the matter.

According to police, the incident occurred between 1.30 and 2 am on Sunday when four persons Lal Singh Rawat (26), Sarabjit Sahani (26), Sunil Sahani (25) and Ravji Chauhan (38) who were hired as contractual labourers, entered the storm water drain pumping station in the presence of a supervisor for cleaning the floor and lifting up the sub-pump motor set.

Prima facie, police said, the labourers were not wearing safety gear and equipment. The four labourers were lifting the sub-pump motor set and cleaning the floors when they fell unconscious due to the poisonous gases from the chemical laden water at the floor of the station. The labourers then fell into a drain and they died of asphyxiation as water entered their lungs. A team of fire services arrived at the spot and the men were taken out of the well. They were declared dead on spot after which their bodies were taken to Civil Hospital in Asarwa for a post-mortem, a statement issued by the AMC stated.

The incident happened when the labourers were putting back the pumping motor in the well after cleaning it as part of the pre-monsoon maintenance work. However, this was being done with the help of a crane.

AMC officials said that it was not clear whether all four went inside together or three followed when one failed to return outside after placing the pumping motor inside the well.

According to the AMC, the contract for maintenance of the pumping station was given to a private firm, Mahima Industries, and the supervisor belonged to the company.

Deputy Municipal Commissioner V K Mehta said that a notice will be issued to the contractor once the inquiry is completed. At present, police investigations are going on along with AMC conducting its own inquiry. If any lapse is found on the company s behalf action will be taken against it, Mehta said.

Claiming to be the first such deaths while cleaning the storm water drainage pumping station, Mehta said, Unlike the manhole incidents due to chemical gas there is no such case as it is storm water drainage pumping station where rainwater is collected. There has been no such incidents recorded before. Investigations will reveal the exact nature of these deaths.

The storm water drain pumping station where the accident took place is one of the 25 stations owned by the AMC, adjacent to both sides of Kharicut canal and its task is to drain the rainwater in surrounding areas of the canal. Mahima Industries had been given the contract for maintenance of the pumping stations for the past five years. Out of the 25 station, 18 have been cleaned already ahead of the monsoon, the AMC said.

Since the height of Kharicut canal is more than the surrounding residential societies that are located on low-lying areas, all the rain water is collected in a well which is then pumped out with the help of pumping machines at these drainage pumping stations.

We are probing the case to see if there is any negligence on behalf of the contractors. The bodies of the victims have been kept in the Civil Hospital and once their relatives arrive, we will ask them to file a written complaint for due action in the case, Odhav Police Inspector (in-charge) R J Jadeja said.

Of the four decased, Rawat hails from Rajasthan, while the Sahanis are from Uttar Pradesh. Chauhan is from Gujarat.