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Monday, Aug 26, 2019

One body found, two feared dead in DJB drain accident

Sharma had gone down the drain first to make repairs that would prevent garbage from entering the sewer line.

india Updated: Jun 29, 2019 00:02 IST
Shiv Sunny and Karn Pratap Singh
Shiv Sunny and Karn Pratap Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Image for representation
Image for representation(AFP file photo)

A welder died after inhaling toxic fumes in a sewer line and being submerged by the rapidly rising water level and the police said two of his colleagues, who went to his rescue, were presumed to have drowned while they worked on a Delhi Jal Board (DJB) drain near west Delhi’s Keshopur Bus Depot around noon on Friday.

The body of 23-year-old Shahrukh Khan was extricated by firefighters because his hand happened to get stuck in an iron mesh covering the sewer. The police identified the missing men, whose bodies hadn’t been found until late Friday night, as Ankit, 19, and 25-year-old Devinder Sharma.

Sharma had gone down the drain first to make repairs that would prevent garbage from entering the sewer line.

“Sharma went down holding a rope that six of us were holding at the top. Within seconds of landing on a wooden ladder below, he seemed uneasy and signalled us to haul him up. We began pulling him up, but he fell unconscious and lost his grip on the rope,” said Imran, one of his colleagues.

Khan rushed down to rescue Sharma, but he too fell unconscious, said Imran, who then decided to enter the well. “Khan was unconscious and his hand was trapped in the iron mesh. Before I could help him, I too fell unconscious. I couldn’t even ask for help,” he said.

In the meantime, the other workers panicked. Ankit entered the chamber in a bid to rescue the trapped colleagues. “But by then, water had gushed into the chamber, sucking Ankit and Sharma. I called the police and the fire department,” said Khan’s brother, Aamir, who too works there.

Imran was luckier than his three colleagues; Dileep Soni, an operator of an earth mover at the same site, rushed to his help and pulled him out. Witnesses said someone had opened a water gate, causing the drain to fill up rapidly, while the workers were trying to rescue each other.

Shahrukh’s brother Aamir said that when he went outside to seek help, he realised that someone had opened a gate of the barrage. “There were three men inside. When I told them about the situation, they locked the place and ran away. I used a hammer to break open the gate and close the water gate,” Aamir said.

DJB’s vice chairman Dinesh Mohaniya said water was already flowing through the chamber and suggested that the workers could have fallen unconscious after inhaling poisonous fumes and then drowned in the water.

“One of the workers went down in the chamber for the welding work. He complained of uneasiness and fell down in the sewer water flowing below him. Later two more workers went down to rescue him but met the same fate,” Mohaniya said, based on the accounts of locals.

The workers alleged that they had been provided no safety gear despite repeated requests and were lowered in the chamber without being provided any advance training.

Calling it a “typical” rescue operation, one that is extremely tough, the fire department said it received no support from the DJB and the two companies to which it had sublet the work, impeding the rescue.

“There was just no one to tell us about the layout of the sewer network. The pipelines are deep into the ground and we don’t know how to access it,” said a senior fire brigade officer who didn’t want to be identified.

Monika Bhardwaj, deputy commissioner of police (west), said a first information report (FIR) was being registered at Khyala police station against “the contractor and others who are found responsible for the deaths during our further probe”.

Shahrukh Khan and the missing men had arrived in Delhi from their homes in Uttar Pradesh earlier this month.

They were among a total of 15 young workers, including seven from one family, who were hired by a private contractor and put on this particular job since the last two days. According to the DCP, the latest work involved erecting a cemented wall over the drain (known as Keshopur Ganda Nala) “for the treatment of water which is sent to Yamuna after treatment at this point”.

Mohaniya said that the DJB had given the contract to the Engineers India Limited (EIL) which had further tasked a private company with the work. Most of these workers were hired fabricators who also had to double up as casual workers for work such as removing garbage stuck in the plant.

First Published: Jun 29, 2019 00:02 IST

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