Well of death

Published: Saturday 15 August 1998

TOXIC fumes from a well claimed five lives at Dichaun Kalan village in west Delhi on July 11. The first casualty was a villager who climbed down the well to install a pump in an attempt to solve the village's water shortage. The other four died one by one, trying to rescue the ones who had preceded them. The well, which was dug about 20 years ago, had remained unused.

Initial reports suggested that the emission was a combination of methane and carbon monoxide. The exact source of the gases has not been traced. Police suspect that stagnant, contaminated water in an adjacent pond might have seeped into the well, causing the gas emission. Water purity experts transferred fish from freshwater into a bucket-full of water from the well. The fish died immediately, indicating very high toxic levels. A tributary to the Najafgarh drain flows near the village, carrying effluents.

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