Three workers hailing from Bihar were killed on the spot when a tipper truck carrying a load of quarry ash toppled over a hut, in which they were sleeping, at a hollow block-making unit in Viduthalai Nagar in Kovilambakkam near Tambaram early on Sunday.

The victims, Prakash, 20, Ajit, 30 and Dayanand, 25, all hailed from Jamui district, Bihar. They had come to work in the unit a few months ago and were living in a thatched hut.

On Sunday morning, the truck, with a capacity to carry nearly 15 tonnes, entered the unit. It was carrying a full load of quarry dust, procured from stone quarrying and crushing units nearby. When the driver lifted the hydraulic-powered dumper, the truck toppled over.

The incident took place at 6.15 a.m. Firemen from Tambaram, other workers in the unit and neighbours rushed to the spot and retrieved the bodies. Pallikaranai police, who are investigating, said the bodies were taken to Tambaram Taluk Government Hospital in Chromepet for post-mortem. They interrogated Udayan, owner of the hollow block-making unit, and were looking for Sathish, the truck driver.

Police say the accident was a result of lapse on the part of the driver and others at the unit. Pallikaranai police said the hut in which the victims were sleeping was right next to the heap of quarry dust being poured throughout the night and day.

Narrow escape

Laloo Kumar Yadav (24) and Suresh Yadav (32), who were also asleep in the hut, had a narrow escape. Jairam (33), also a worker, had woken up a little earlier and left the hut to have a cup of tea nearby.

“We usually get up around 3 a.m. and start work immediately. As it was a Sunday, we decided to rest longer,” said Laloo. He said there were 13 workers from Bihar, all from Jamui district. “We are all from large families and working in similar units or construction sites back home, where work will not fetch us more than Rs. 50 a day.

“We make an average of Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 9,000 a month here depending on how long we work. We also get weekly allowances with which we buy ration and other essential items,” he said. However, the highly polluting atmosphere took a severe toll on their health and some of them were planning to return after receiving this month's wages. He said Prakash worked on mixing raw materials, Ajit was in charge of shifting blocks, while Dayanand was a machine operator.

There have been several instances of workers being crushed to death at construction sites in the past few years, yet there was very little response from government agencies, said Mary, who lives next to the block-making unit and runs a grocery store.