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Saturday, Aug 17, 2019

Bengal: Teenaged cousins drown in makeshift septic tank

The tragedy highlights the risks of open defecation even as Hariharpara block where the two teenagers died, is aiming to become open defecation free by the end of October.

kolkata Updated: Sep 10, 2017 18:28 IST
Shreyasi Pal
Shreyasi Pal
Hindustan Times, Berhampore
Fire brigade personnel and policemen retrieving the bodies of two teenagers who drowned in a septic tank in a village in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district.
Fire brigade personnel and policemen retrieving the bodies of two teenagers who drowned in a septic tank in a village in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district.(HT PHOTO)

Two teenagers drowned in a makeshift septic tank in a village in Murshidabad district of West Bengal on Saturday evening while a botched rescue attempt that severed the head of one of the victims compounded the tragedy.

The disaster also exposed yet again the risks related to open defecation.

According to police and local sources, around 6 pm on Saturday, class VI student Rejina Malitha (13), a resident of Sahajadpur village went to answer nature’s call at a makeshift toilet adjacent to a makeshift septic tank.

The girl was carrying a smartphone which slipped out of her hand and fell on the edge of the septic tank. She came back after about an hour to collect the phone but accidentally fell inside the septic tank.

“She was drowning and started screaming for help, hearing which two women standing nearby raised an alarm. Rejina’s cousin Bapan Malitha (17), who rushed to her rescue, too fell in the tank. By the time the police came in, both of them were dead,” said Mafidul Islam, a neighbour.

Bapan Malitha, who worked as migrant labourer, had come from Kerala to celebrate Eid with the family.

This was not the end of the tragedy though.

While waiting for the police and fire brigade to arrive, villages attempted to rescue them by using an earth mover. In the process, they ended up severing the girl’s head from her body.

The bodies were finally retrieved by police are fire services personnel late in the night

“My son didn’t sit idle when he heard that his cousin had fallen in the septic tank. I think both died due to poisonous gas inside the chamber,” Bapan’s father Bablu Malitha said.

After the deaths several villages expressed their anguish over the slow pace with which the government was building toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission scheme. Most of the houses in the village do not have toilets and villagers defecate in makeshift toilets in the adjacent fields.

Senior government officials in the districts refused to comment on the incident. Sources in the district administration said Hariharpara block where the village is located is likely to be declared ‘open defecation free’ by the end of October.

First Published: Sep 10, 2017 18:28 IST

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