The five women were agricultural labourers who were travelling from their village to their workplace; six others have been admitted to hospital
Five agricultural labourers who were going to work in a cargo autorickshaw, were killed in a mishap when the vehicle overturned into a water channel crossing the road near Maniyaachi in Thoothukudi district on Tuesday morning.
The deceased were identified as M. Malai Azhagu, 55, M. Petchiammal, 53, Gomathi, 48, Eswari, 38, and S. Petchiammal, 60, all from Manappadaivedu in Tirunelveli district.
Six others – S. Petchiammal, 65, S. Chellathaai, 60, S. Mariammal, 50, M. Lingammal, 30, M. Petchiammal, 30, and M. Viji, 36, also from Manappadaivedu — sustained injuries and were rushed to the Thoothukudi Medical College Hospital for treatment after first-aid at Ottapidaaram Government Hospital. The condition of Ms. Viji is said to be critical.
Police said the mini cargo vehicle, after picking up 35 farmhands at Manappadaivedu, was going to their workplace at Maniyaachi, where the unprecedented rain in mid-January has revived agricultural operations in the otherwise dry area. When they were about to reach Maniyaachi around 8.30 a.m., the speeding vehicle overturned into a channel that had some water. As some of the labourers were trapped beneath the overturned vehicle, five women were killed on the spot while 30 others suffered injuries.
Villagers of Maniyaachi immediately arrived at the spot to start the rescue operation with the help of an earthmover that was used to lift the vehicle to retrieve the bodies and the injured. Of the 30 injured, 24 were taken to the Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital for treatment.
Police suspect that overloading and rash driving by driver Chiththirai, 39, of Thirumalaikozhunthupuram caused the accident and he has been picked-up for an interrogation at Maniyaachi police station.
Though ferrying passengers in cargo vehicles is an offence, it is common in the areas around Kovilpatti, Ottapidaaram, Kayathar and Vilaathikulam, where the cargo vehicle drivers take farmhands to their workplace from their villages and back. As the police rarely take action against the drivers of these vehicles, they violate the road safety rules at will for their earnings and this often leads to fatal mishaps.