As the rainwater receded on Wednesday, so did the hopes of Dr Deepak Amrapurkar’s family. The 59-year-old gastroenterologist is feared to have fallen into a manhole near Lower Parel, while he was walking home, on a flooded road, on Tuesday evening. At least six persons, including a lawyer who was locked in his car on a waterlogged road, died, and seven others were reported missing in Mumbai, a day after the city recorded 315 mm rainfall — its highest since 2005. While four people were killed in Thane, another four died in Palghar.
According to his family, Amrapurkar was returning home from Bombay Hospital on Tuesday when his car got stuck in traffic. “He asked the driver to take the car home and decided to walk,” said Pallavi Godbole, his niece. “His house is just 10 minutes away from where he left the vehicle. However, the driver reached home, but he didn’t. We have been searching for him since then,” she said, adding that they couldn’t get through to his cellphone also.
The police, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams, including divers, also joined the search operation. Amrapurkar was last seen in Lower Parel, at 6.45 pm. “A commuter tried to save a man who fell into an open manhole, but could only manage to grab his umbrella. This umbrella was identified by Amrapurkar’s family members. We have registered a missing case. NDRF teams have also been roped in. They searched a couple of manholes but were not successful in locating him. A BMC team has been stationed at the opening of the drain outlet in Worli,” said Assistant Commissioner of Police Sunil Deshmukh.
“He is considered one of the best in the country. It is really sad, we are all waiting for news,” said Dr B K Goyal, cardiologist, Bombay Hospital.
According to officials of the Storm Water Drainage (SWD) department, there are around 30,000 manholes in the city. “The general norm is that there should be a manhole every 30 metres, and they are usually opened before the monsoon season when they need to be cleaned. However, they may also be opened if we need to check the flow or level of the water, or even if photographs need to be taken for maintenance purposes. But every time they are opened, either one of the engineers or workers guard them. They are never left unguarded,” said Vidyadhar Khandkar, deputy chief engineer, SWD department. “None of the manholes had been opened by us on Tuesday… In any case, they are only opened during the day,” said another official.