Stony silence and posse of policemen on Thursday replaced the chatter of food-lovers in the narrow lane at Opera House as investigating agencies scoured the area for clues after a lethal blast rocked this diamond-trade hub of Mumbai.
Relatives of the victims lamented the lack of security in the area.
35-year-old Manish Mehta, a diamond trader, has lost sensation in his left arm. He was waiting for his friends near a tea stall at the Opera House Khau-Galli (food-street), where he and a few friends landed up every day before heading home.
"There was a police chowki near the diamond-trading offices, but that was removed some time back for the reason best known to the authorities. Now, a Jumbo King vada-pav joint stands in its place. For long we have been demanding security in the area but nothing happened," said Ashwin, Manish's relative, at the Harkisandas Hospital.
"If there would have been enough security, even if the blast might not have been prevented, at least human lives could have been saved. Police reached the site late, and it was locals who were helping victims," he said.
Talking about Manish's condition, Ashwin said, "Doctors said there is a possibility that his hand might get paralysed and another surgery might be needed."
Manish has a wife -- Deepu (32)-- and a five-year-old daughter.
Family members of Shripal Mujhpura (36), another diamond merchant who was injured in the blast, too pointed out lack of security. "Considering the kind of business that goes on at this diamond trade hub, where deals worth crores are done almost every day, security is a must," they said.
Shripal, a regular visitor at Khau Galli, was waiting for his elder brother at one of the snack-counters. Luckily, the elder brother was not hurt as he was a little away from the explosion spot.
Laxmikant Soni (33), another diamond broker, got injuries on chest and on hand. Presently, he is at the Harkisandas Hospital.
"He had come to Opera House to have snacks. I was also supposed to join him, but before I could reach, blast occurred. I tried calling him but it seems his phone was lost. I started searching for him at Saifee hospital and couldn't find him, so went to Harkisandas," said his brother, Satish.
Ramnarayan Shukla (48), a painter, who was passing through the lane at the inopportune moment, has suffered severe head injuries and is admitted to ICU at Saifee Hospital. "He is the sole bread-winner in his family...Human life is in danger every second. Luxury hotels, tourists spots, trains, buses, eatery joints - every place has been affected with blasts. It seems people should now stop going out of house," said an emotional Hemnarayan Shukla, his brother.
Small-time jeweller, Baburam Das (40) had gone to the area hoping to strike a major deal with a prospective customer, but ended up in hospital.
"He is in critical condition. His leg was torn apart and he has suffered severe back injuries," Aarti Mandal, his sister-in-law, said.