Barley a fortnight after a nine-year-old Tushar Jadhav died after falling into an open manhole at Worli, a 21-year-old public relations professional nearly suffered the same fate at Bandra.
Jadhav fell into the manhole while flying a kite. The open manhole was covered by a plywood sheet placed there by residents of the area. His body was found on November 9 at Love Grove pumping station, a kilometre away from the manhole.
Siya Malhotra, a Pune resident who recently shifted to Mumbai, was on her way back home on Wednesday evening when she fell into an open manhole near Lilavati Hospital.
Malhotra was in a rickshaw but was stuck in a traffic jam for over 40 minutes. Since her home was just a few metres away, she decided to walk.
"I started walking towards Lilavati, but suddenly I fell into the manhole. For a few seconds, I didn't realise what was happening," said Malhotra, who was injured on her hands and legs. "The sewage water was more than six feet deep. Since I am only 5 feet, 4 inches tall, I was completely underwater. I couldn't breathe," she recalled.
"I choked as the water entered my mouth; I couldn't even call for help. Luckily for me, there were a lot of people around and two men ran up to me and helped me out," said Malhotra.
Residents of the area said a girl had fallen into the same manhole just two days before Malhotra had her narrow escape. Then, too, passersby had pulled out the girl in the nick of time.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Aseem Gupta admitted missing manhole covers were a problem. "More often than not, the manhole covers are stolen. We try to replace them as soon as possible," he said.
Malhotra lost her phone, wallet, bag and keys in the incident. She said she was very lucky to have escaped without major injuries, but was shocked that Mumbai's cash-rich civic body allows such incidents to occur.
"There were no indicators or signs put up near the manhole. It is extremely dangerous for children or senior citizens, especially at night," said Malhotra.
Malhotra now plans to launch a campaign along with her friends to create awareness about the problem and to make sure that the civic authorities address the problem before any more such incidents occur.