Seven people including four sanitation workers reportedly died of suffocation on Saturday while cleaning a hotel’s septic tank in Fartikui village of Gujarat’s Vadodara.

The incident happened shortly after midnight at Darshan Hotel around 30 km from Vadodara city, police said. Three employees of the hotel identified as Ajay Vasava (24), Vijay Chauhan (22) and Sahdev Vasava (22) were also among those killed.

“The sanitation workers had been roped in to clean the sewer. When one worker failed to come out of the manhole, others went inside to check, but all of them died of asphyxiation,” in-charge district collector Kiran Zaveri told PTI.

“We rushed to the site soon after learning about the incident and teams of the fire brigade from Vadodara Municipal Corporation and Dabhoi civic body launched rescue work. They took out the bodies of the deceased after three hours of efforts,” he added.

The four sanitation workers were identified as Mahesh Patanwadiya, Ashok Harijan, Brijesh Harijan, Mahesh Harijan. All of them had been called in from Thuvavi in Dabhoi for the job.

The police is investigating to determine what kind of gas the victims had inhaled.

A case has been registered at the Dabhoi Police station. The owner of the hotel, who is absconding, has been charged with causing death due to negligence and culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

“We are investigating what was the exact gas they inhaled and what exactly happened,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police (Dabhoi division) Kalpesh Solanki.

Talking to PTI, BJP MLA Shailesh Mehta, who represents the Dabhoi Assembly constituency, said the four sanitation workers were from the nearby Thuvavi village and they were hired to clean the sewer lines.

He added that the incident shows sheer disregard for the safety of the workers. Police said the incident took place around 12.30 am.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat government announced financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh each to the kin of the deceased. In a statement, the government said that it has directed the police to take strict action against the hotel owner.

Earlier on Thursday, National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) Chairman Manhar Valjibhai Zala said that as many as 801 sanitation workers have died while cleaning sewers in the country since 1993.

(With agency inputs)