Three other workers deployed to dig pits for underground drainage network were rescued

A 25-year-old migrant worker from Uttar Pradesh died and three others were injured when a 20-ft-deep pit, dug up for underground drainage work, caved in at Pallikaranai on Tuesday evening.

The deceased, Rajesh, lay under a huge mound of dirt for nearly three hours and his body was recovered after a long struggle.

The accident took place when Manoj Deepak Ram (23), Bahadur Mashid (28) and Rajesh, natives of Uttar Pradesh, and Venkatesan (45) of Mambakkam near Tambaram, were trying to remove a huge piece of rock from the bottom of a trench, about 20 feet below the surface, on Vallal Pari Nagar First Main Road.

Rajesh was operating the drilling machine, while the other three were clearing the debris. A little after 4 p.m., one side of the trench caved in, trapping the four men underneath.

Bahadur managed to scramble out in time but the other three lay trapped.

Other workers on the site and residents of Vallal Pari Nagar and Veerasamy Nagar tried to rescue the three men, but in vain.

Soon firemen from the emergency rescue tender in Tambaram reached the spot and managed to pull out Manoj. The rescue efforts were hampered as the trench caved in further putting the lives of the firemen in danger.

Around 6 p.m., they spotted Venkatesan amid the debris. The firemen secured a rope around him and using crowbars and other equipment, they cleared the dirt and stones under which his legs were trapped.

Venkatesan suffered injuries on his abdomen and legs and was rushed to the Government Royapettah Hospital.

Later, earthmoving equipment was deployed to scoop out earth. Around 7 p.m., three hours after the accident, the body of the fourth worker was recovered.

Several residents, who were hopeful of a rescue until then, broke down on seeing the youth’s body.

Safety norms flouted?

“It was all over in minutes. There was a loud noise and people started screaming. We noticed one of the workers struggling, but he managed to escape. We did not know how to help,” said S. Arasu, a resident.

Many of those gathered at the site alleged serious violation of safety norms.

“They were digging a huge trench. They should have placed strong scaffolding on both the sides of the trench to prevent it from caving in,” said R.N. Panneerselvam who lives very close to the accident site.

The workers, residents said, were not wearing helmets or other protective gear.

For the past year, Metrowater, through its contractor SEW AIPPL (a joint venture) based in Hyderabad, has been digging trenches in various areas of Vallal Pari Nagar to lay distribution mainlines that will transport sewage generated in Pallikaranai to a pumping station nearby.

A case under IPC Section 304 (a) — accidental death caused due to negligence — was registered at the Pallikaranai police station.

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