A day after a labourer died at an under-construction “interceptor sewage project” in West Delhi, the search for his two colleagues continued in the Keshopur drain Saturday.
The fire services were joined by a 16-member team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to locate the two missing labourers — Ankit (19) and Devender Sharma (25) — who were working on the Delhi Jal Board project Friday morning.
“Access to a drain is very little as it’s a confined space. The water is muddy and contaminated, the oxygen level is low and there are hazardous gases inside. It’s unlike other underwater rescue operations. We presume the men are dead,” said NDRF Commandant P K Srivastava.
On Friday morning, at least nine labourers were deployed for construction of the interceptor sewage project. Around 1 pm, a PCR call was made about three men having drowned in the drain.
One labourer, Shah Rukh Khan (25), was pulled out of the site by the fire services, but was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Ankit and Devender have not been found yet, said DCP (West) Monika Bhardwaj. A contractor was arrested Friday, and a case was registered at Khyala police station. Police said they will make more arrests soon.
Meanwhile, relatives and colleagues of the two missing labourers faced a long and hard wait. A relative of Sharma said, “We are angry and helpless, we are waiting for officials to tell us where he is… we are losing hope with time.”
Imran Khan (19), a labourer at the site, said, “I returned to the spot Saturday and saw rescue officials enter the drain to find the bodies of the other two labourers. But I couldn’t breathe and came back up after some time.” Srivastava corroborated this claim and said, “There are hazardous gases inside, it is difficult to stay in for too long.”
The NDRF has installed cameras inside the drain to try and “capture photos of the bodies”. Srivastava, however, said, “It’s not very effective as the water is not clear.” A Jal Board official said, “Technical details of the pipeline system — from the interceptor site to the Keshopur sewage treatment plant — have been provided to the NDRF.”
At least two fire tenders and seven fire service officials have been stationed at the spot since the incident. “The length and the depth of the pipeline differs every few metres and that’s a challenge. We punctured parts of the pipeline to create access. The NDRF, police, fire services and the Jal Board officials are at the spot.”