By Ikechukwu Odu & Chinenye Ozor
NSUKKA—The sleepy Igogoro village in Enugu-Ezike, Igboeze North Local Government Area of Enugu State was thrown into mourning and panic, Monday night, as eight construction workers died in a septic tank.
It was learned that a labourer at a building site belonging to one Stephen Uramah, ran short of water and decided to move a water pumping machine inside a septic tank to enable him siphon water to the site.
A source said: “After waiting for the worker for some time, the other workers went to offer help, but also got trapped and became unconscious. They were later rescued and rushed to the General Hospital, Ogurute, where the doctor on duty confirmed them dead.”
Another source disclosed that when the first victim was trapped inside, the second person tried to rescue him and fell into it. The others went in one after the other, until the eight person, adding that while the others died instantly, the last died on the way to the hospital.
Another eyewitness said: “The machine was started and lowered into the pit. The operator entered the tank and collapsed, maybe as a result of the fumes (carbon monoxide).
“Others were entering after the last to offer help, but got trapped as a result of the fumes. This is how carbon monoxide operates.”
Six of the eight victims were said to be indigenes of Amachalla community that share common boundary with Igogoro community.
They had finished work—Eyewitness
However, Mr. Silas Odo, father of the owner of the building said the water in the tank was almost exhausted, which made the labourer to move his generator/pumping machine inside it.
Odo added that soon after the labourer started the generator, the smoke circulated and heated the environment. So he climbed out, washed his head to relieve himself of the effects of the carbon, returned inside the tank and was then choked to death.
Odo added: “They came to work for my son, who is building his residential house. They had even finished working and had returned for refreshment, when someone raised the alarm about a choking labourer in the nearby building site.
“One of them rushed inside the tank to help him out and suffocated to death. Seeing what had happened, others went in one after the other to try also to assist and they all got choked to death.”
When Vanguard visited the family of one of the deceased, the father, Ossai Eze, said he finds it difficult to believe that his 24-year-old son, Oluchi Eze, will not return to him alive again.
Also, another bereaved father, John Onu said he had not found enough courage to discuss the tragic death of his son, Ejike Onu.
At the houses of families Vanguard visited, sympathisers were seen in their numbers consoling the bereaved.
Chidi Idoko, who also lost a brother in the incident, gave the names of the victims he could remember as Uchechukwu Idoko, Oluchi Eze, Ejike Onu, Omenkeya Eze, Ifeanyi Abugu.
Pained by the incident an indigene, Theo Ray, said: “Honestly, I don’t understand. This is arguably the highest tragedy ever in my village. I am very sad. I hate people falling sick, not to talk of dying in such a cheap way.
“We cannot let it go. Journalists, security agents, scholars and spiritual men and men of God should voluntarily help us find out where we got it wrong and where we need caution and make amend.”
Police Command in Enugu State, yesterday, confirmed the deaths, with Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, its spokesman, in a statement in Enugu, saying the incident occurred “around 6p.m. on Monday.”
Amaraizu quoted Mr. Suleiman Balarabe, the state Commissioner of Police, as expressing shock over the incident, which he described as “unfortunate.”
“The Commissioner has ordered a full scale investigation into the incident,” the statement said, adding that the remains of the victims had been deposited at the hospital’s mortuary.