Disaster strikes while they were working in it

Three youths were killed as they fell into a 25-foot-deep well while working in it at Mangattukonam, near Vizhinjam, on Sunday.

The disaster struck around 1.30 p.m. while Praveen, 25, who was removing the wooden planks supporting the rings lowered into the well on the premises of a relative’s house a few days ago, fell into the water and got stuck in the mud. Satheesh, 23, and Sreejith, 25, jumped to rescue Praveen, but met with the same fate. A portion of the well is said to have caved in, leaving them with no escape route.

Fire and Rescue Services personnel reached the spot allegedly late and without adequate rescue equipment. Eyewitnesses said three fire engines from Chengalchoola, Vizhinjam and Poovar reached the spot only around 2.15 p.m. The personnel allegedly refused to climb down as the well was devoid of oxygen and they had just one oxygen cylinder.

By 2.45 p.m., the three victims were pulled up from the well with the help of the local people, and waiting ambulances took Praveen and Sreejith to the Government Medical College Hospital. Satheesh was taken to the Neyyattinkara Taluk Hospital. The three were declared brought dead. The bodies were shifted to the morgues in the two hospitals for post-mortem examination on Monday.

At the spot, the public turned angry, alleging that some of the Fire and Rescue Services personnel were inebriated.

Tension escalated with the people blocking the fire engines from returning.

A large posse of police, including K. Suresh Kumar, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Fort, Jameela Prakasham, Kovalam MLA, Kottukal panchayat president V. Sivakumar and others tried to pacify the crowd, which finally allowed the fire engines to return around 5.30 p.m. on condition that the personnel would be subjected to medical tests and the fire stations nearby would be equipped to tackle such accidents.

Health Minister V.S. Sviakumar said the bereaved families would be given an immediate assistance of Rs. 10,000 each.

It was only on August 27 that Babu, a daily-wage labourer, was trapped when a well he was digging in a house near Vizhinjam Beach Road caved in. After a six-hour ordeal, Fire and Rescue Services and Army personnel and the local people pulled him out of a 20-foot-deep mass of mud. Officials said the loose sand in the coastal region could be the reason for wells caving in so easily.