The Star (Nairobi)

12 December 2012

Kenya: Two Suffocate As They Drain a 50-Foot Pit in Mombasa

Two men hired by a private hospital in Mombasa to clean a drainage system suffocated on Monday. The two were contracted by the Mombasa Hospital to drain out a 50-foot pit.

Maria Braganza, the sister in charge of the emergency department, said the two suffocated in the pit. Sahem Mwarua, who was part of the group working in the pit, said they drained out the pit on Sunday and were working on removing the silt at the bottom of the drainage system after five others left.

"The first man was tied with a rope around his waist and went down into the hole to scoop the soil. After sometime he complained that he was short of air and requested to be brought up," Mwarua said.

"He let go of the rope as we were bringing him up. He just let go of it. That's when the second colleague went in to help him but he also did not make it up," said Mwarua.

Eyewitness said the deceased had been trapped in the drainage for over two hours before any form of help could arrive. One of the rescuers from the Mombasa Fire Brigade team called in to retrieve the bodies was overwhelmed with the gas and was rushed to the emergency department while unconscious.

Hillary Charo, the station officer in charge of the rescue team, said the hospital administration should have consulted the municipal on a safe method of working on such deep drainages.

"I have visited the scene and my opinion is that they should have let the pit open for around three days for oxygen to get in. If they had consulted us we would have advised them accordingly," said Charo.

Charo said the rescue team responded quickly and did their best in the operation despite their lack of facilities. However the hospital administration through the chief security officer Henry Okunu said they tried calling the rescue team and waited for over an hour before they responded.

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