A 47-year-old man suffocated to death after he inhaled toxic fumes while cleaning a six-feet-deep sump inside the Anagalaamman temple in Choolai on Tuesday.
The victim is said to have been drunk at the time of the incident.
The police said the victim, S. Damodaran, was a resident of Kolathur. He had been making a living by working odd jobs including cleaning sumps and overhead tanks in residential areas in north Chennai.
On Tuesday, around 1.30 p.m., Damodaran, along with two helpers, was engaged in the cleaning of six large sumps inside the temple on V.V. Koil Street. Ignoring norms that require that only workers of Chennai Corporation be employed in cleaning sumps in a public place, the temple authorities had employed individuals and had failed to provide any safety gear, the police said.
Each of the sumps, which had remained uncleaned for many years, is around sixfeet deep but water was stored only for a depth of one foot.
Damodaran, after cleaning five of the sumps, entered the last one but immediately fell unconscious and collapsed. Two helpers, who were waiting near the sump, lifted Damodaran out and, along with temple authorities, took Damodaran to a private hospital where the doctors declared him ‘brought dead.
A team from the Vepery police team rushed to the spot and conducted an inquiry. The body was sent to Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital for a post-mortem examination.
“A case under section 174 of IPC was registered. The actual cause of death can be ascertained only after the post-mortem,” said T. Jayakumar, inspector (crime), Vepery police.
The Madras high court in October 2006 had banned manual cleaning of sewage pits, but the practice continues in the State. On May 22, two men suffocated to death while working in a manhole in Ori Salai, Mogappair East. The victims were contract labourers involved in the construction of an underground drainage network for Chennai Metrowater.