LAHORE – Two employees of the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa), who also happened to be real brothers, were suffocated to death soon after they landed inside a gutter for routine cleanliness in Nishtar Colony in the wee hours of Friday, police and rescue workers said.

Rescue workers said the two men fell unconscious because of poisonous gas in the gutter and later died of suffocation. Local residents said the Wasa workers landed inside the gutter without adequate safety measures because the agency had not provided them safety kits despite repeated warning by the staff and union leaders.

The deceased, identified as Danish Masih, 24, and his younger brother Heera Masih, 21, entered the gutter through a manhole situated in the Main Bazaar in Nishtar Colony before dawn on Friday. They started the sanitation work, but did not appear after a considerable time.

In the meantime, another worker John Masih entered inside the gutter and witnessed that his brothers, Danish and Heera, were lying dead in the gutter. The youth alerted his co-workers who immediately contacted the emergency service – Rescue 1122.

John Masih was trying to pull out the bodies of his brothers when he also fell unconscious. Rescue workers reached the spot and launched the operation. One of the rescuers also fell unconscious during the operation.

After hectic efforts, the rescuers managed to pull out the dead bodies. The rescuers also managed to pull out John Masih and a rescuer alive from the gutter. They were shifted to a local hospital in serious condition.

Many emotional scenes were witnessed after the parents of the deceased brothers reached the spot. The police also responded to the emergency and handed over the dead bodies to the deceased’s family.

A good number of Wasa employees gathered at Ferozpur Road after the incident, blocked the road and staged strong protest demonstration against the City District Government Lahore (CDGL). They also chanted slogans against the authorities and demanded immediate removal of the Wasa managing director.

According to a statement issued by Wasa authorities, two work-charge employees Heera Masih and Danish Masih died of suffocation because of poisonous gas. The Wasa managing director has suspended SDO Irfan Abbasi and Sub-Engineer Amjad Ali from service, while an inquiry has been initiated to probe into the happening.

Meanwhile, DMD (Operations) of the agency visited the residence of the deceased brothers on Friday evening and handed over cheques of Rs400,000 to their family as compensation.