Ahmedabad, India - Seven people have suffocated to death while cleaning a hotel septic tank in western India without safety gear, police said Saturday.
The hotel owner has been charged with causing death due to negligence following the incident Friday night in Gujarat state's Vadodara district, a police official said.
Four of those who died had been called to clean the tank while three others were hotel employees who were assisting.
Hundreds of thousands of mostly low-caste Indians are employed as "manual scavengers" who clear underground pipes and septic tanks without any protective gear or masks.
"One person first entered the tank, but when he did not come out and did not respond to calls, three other cleaners went inside to help him," said Vadodara fire officer Nikunj Azad who was leading the rescue operations.