Seven people have died of suffocation while cleaning the septic tank of a hotel in western India without safety equipment, police said on Saturday.
The hotel owner has been charged with causing the negligent death following Friday night’s incident in Vadodara district, Gujarat state, a police official said.
Four of the deceased had been called in to clean the tank while three others were hotel workers assisting them.
Hundreds of thousands of Indians, mostly of lower caste, are employed as “manual garbage collectors” who clean underground pipes and septic tanks without protective equipment or masks.
“One person got into the tank first, but when he didn’t get out and answer calls, three more cleaners came in to help him,” said Nikunj Azad, the Vadodara firefighter. , who led the rescue operations.
When all four did not come out after a while, the three hotel workers entered the tank, all seven losing their lives in the process, Azad added.
“Their bodies were taken out and sent for an autopsy,” he said.
Deaths from asphyxiation in sewers filled with noxious gases are frequently reported across the country.
Last year, five people died in New Delhi while cleaning a sewage treatment tank.
Indian lawmakers have passed several laws aimed at eradicating the age-old practice of manual cleaning, the most recent in 2013.
But many scavengers are still used through contractors, making it difficult for authorities to determine responsibilities.
In rural areas, female “garbage collectors” clean primitive non-flush toilets with basic tools, although the practice is now in decline.
There is no official data, but independent surveys indicate that some 1,370 people lose their lives each year in hazardous work.