Seven Egyptians die in rural septic tank accident

CAIRO, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Six Egyptian men died one after another as they descended into a rural septic tank in a failed attempt to rescue a 17-year-old who had entered the tank to fix a drainage problem, security sources and a family member said.

The youth, Ayman Mohamed Gumaa, also died on Tuesday after he succumbed to fumes and fell into sludge at the bottom of the tank in the village of Rifa near the southern city of Assiut, the sources said.

Gumaa's mother, Zeinab Mohamed Ali, told Reuters she had sent her son into the tank because water was backing up into the family home, but panicked when he didn't return.

"I called out, Ayman, Ayman, Ayman, but he didn't respond. So I called for his uncle," she told Reuters at a municipal hospital where the bodies were taken after the incident.

Security sources said that Gumaa's 45-year-old uncle entered the tank to try to save him, but also succumbed to the fumes.

A neighbour, his brother, another neighbour and his two brothers all proceeded to enter the tank to rescue others in the group. But they all died after exposure to noxious gases in the tank, a health official said.

"They couldn't bear the fumes and they suffocated and died," Ali said.

Security sources said civil defence forces later retrieved all seven bodies. They said it was not immediately clear if the men died from exposure to noxious gases in the tank or drowned after possibly losing consciousness.