Contract labourers were working on a drainage network project for Chennai Metrowater

In what appears to be yet another case of a lack of safety measures at construction sites, two men suffocated to death while working in an 18-foot manhole in Ori Salai, Mogappair East on Tuesday evening.

The victims were contract labourers involved in the construction of an underground drainage network for Chennai Metrowater.

The accident took place around 4 p.m., when the victims, Srinivasalu (35) and Cheenu (35), both from Visakhapatnam, were working inside a manhole, constructed a month ago. The work involved building a slope in the manhole to allow free flow of sewage.

According to police, the men collapsed inside the manhole. A few of their colleagues nearby realised they hadn’t come out, and alerted fire service personnel, who arrived and managed to get both men out.

They were rushed to a private hospital where both men were declared ‘brought dead’.

According to sources in Chennai Metrowater, the work was part of a project to provide a sewerage network to Ambattur zone under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

This is the third such incident in the past two years where workers have died of suffocation while working in manholes.

Usually, work to cement manholes in order to allow free flow of sewage is done a few days after the structure is built, after a ‘curing period’.

But in Tuesday’s case, the cementing was only taken up after the construction of all manholes for the project.

“If the workers had kept the manhole open for at least 30 minutes before stepping in and allowed in fresh air, the mishap could have been averted,” said an official.

As they were contract labourers, the contractor of the project will have to pay compensation to their families, the official said.

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