New Delhi, Aug 12 (IANS) With tears running down his cheeks and breathing heavily through a translucent plastic oxygen mask, 50-year-old Yusuf said he cleaned the city mall's septic tank every year without any protective gears -- the tank where his two sons died of suffocation seven hours ago.
Yusuf's two sons died of suffocation after he, along with them, went to clean a septic tank of Aggarwal Fun City Mall in Anand Vihar in east Delhi on Saturday afternoon.
But luckily Yusuf survived.
On Saturday night, sitting on the white bedspread of a city hospital, Yusuf clutched hard on a white hand kerchief and complained of burning eyes and took long pauses while talking.
"I didn't even know about safety masks," the father of seven said when asked whether they had had any safety masks while cleaning the tank.
Yusuf and his two sons Ijaz and Jahangir had been working at the mall, doing cleaning work and garbage collection for the past eight to 10 years, according to Yusuf's wife Kesar Jahan, 40.
"They don't pay us anything for collecting the garbage and we pay them Rs 8,000 a month," she said.
Jahan said that they made money by selling the garbage and from the extra work for which the mall authorities paid separately.
Saturday's tank cleaning was supposed to fetch the family Rs 3,000.
On Saturday, Ijaz left home for the mall, a half-an-hour journey, at 8 a.m and later Jahangir and Yusuf left at 9 a.m.
The tank is located on one side of the mall's parking, which is two floors below ground level, according to a police officer who visited the spot.
The officer said that the tank was eight to 10 feet deep and around 15 feet long.
After 12 p.m, first Ijaz went inside the tank, while Jahangir and Yusuf waited outside.
"As we saw Ijaz fainting, Jahangir went to save him and then I followed," Yusuf said through a side of his oxygen mask.
Soon both of them also fainted and authorities called up fire services for help.
A fire fighter went inside the tank and tied the three of them to be pulled out and while he was coming up, he also fainted and fell on the floor of the tank injuring his head.
"There was this deep water in the tank," Yusuf said pointing to his knee.
A hospital staffer walked in and told Yusuf that everything would be fine and asked him to stay strong.
At this point, Yusuf's wife Jahan, who was sitting beside him on the bed, broke down: "Our sons are gone and you expect us to be strong?"
Jahan said Ijaz had three children and Jahangir two -- youngest being a seven-year-old boy.
As Yusuf was taken away in a wheel chair for ECG, Jahan continued sobbing.
"Who'll take care of the children now? They have snatched our roti from us," Jahan said between her sobs.