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Rescuers at the scene where two men died after getting stuck in a cesspit. Pic source: QQ

HONG KONG: Two brothers from a rural village in northern China got stuck and died in a cesspit after they tried to retrieve a lost mobile phone, according to a local police report.

Police said one of the two men went down to the latrine pit in Huyan village in Shanxi province at noon last Tuesday, to pick up a phone dropped by his son the day before.

When he failed to emerge from the two-metre pit, his brother went down to save him but also became trapped and died.

When their families discovered they were missing they called the police, who knocked down the latrine wall and used pumps to empty the pit, but by that time they were too late.

Rescuers said the noxious gases generated by the human waste could cause people to lose consciousness.

Despite an ongoing “toilet revolution” intended to improve public hygiene across China, many rural areas still lack flushing lavatories and the use of latrine pits is still common.

A number of other deaths caused by people trying to retrieve phones from latrines have been recorded in China, including a similar tragedy in Huyan village five years ago.

In that incident a 43-year-old woman who dropped a phone became trapped in the pit and her husband and daughter also died trying to save her.

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