Four members of a family died after they inhaled toxic gases inside a sewer in Ramnagar village of Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district on Sunday, the Hindustan Times reported. The deceased were identified as Nandkumar (45), Nitesh (25), Dinesh (40), and Anand (22).

According to the police, Nandkumar was hired to clean a septic tank in the village. However, while cleaning, he fell and got trapped inside. His son, Nitesh rushed to help him, but got stuck too.

Following this, two of their relatives, Dinesh and Anand, along with their neighbour Rajkumar went inside the tank to rescue the duo, but fell unconscious. The locals then called the police and district authorities who used a suction tank to clean the septic tank and pull out the men, according to the newspaper.

The five were taken to Kotwa Health centre where four of them were declared dead, according to ETV Bharat. Rajkumar, who is in a critical condition, was referred to the Deoria Medical College.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath announced an ex gratia payment of Rs 4 lakh to the families of the deceased, according to the Hindustan Times.

Manual scavenging – or the practice of removing human excreta by hand from sewer lines or septic tanks – is banned under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. But the practice remains prevalent in many parts of India.

In March, the government told the Lok Sabha that a total of 1,035 persons have died while being engaged in hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks across India since 1993.