Ram Avatar Baitha began feeling breathless but couldn’t be taken to a hospital 3 km away.

Trapped by heavy rain and waist-high water on Wednesday, a 56-year-old cancer patient from Shillong in need of oxygen support died at a Dadar dharmashala while waiting for an ambulance to get to a hospital 3 km away. His body could be moved out only 14 hours later, when the water level began to recede.

After being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Ram Avatar Baitha, a clerk in the Meghalaya tourism department, arrived in Mumbai for treatment with his son and wife in December last year. He underwent nine chemotherapy sessions at Tata Memorial Centre while staying at Sant Gadge Maharaj Mission Dharamshala in Dadar. His next session was scheduled for September 30.

Around 2 am on Wednesday, as it continued to pour across the city, Baitha complained of breathlessness. His son, Vikas, called up doctors, who advised that he rush Baitha to Tata Memorial Centre. “My father was gasping for breath. I began calling several ambulance services and pleaded with them, but not one was ready to operate in the heavy rain,” said Vikas, who also tried to hail vehicles on the flooded road. “My father’s condition kept worsening; it was a painful sight. I was so helpless.”

Because of the flooding, his body could be moved out of the Dadar dharmashala only 14 hours later

Baitha died two hours later. Vikas and the dharmashala’s authorities informed the Bhoiwada police and doctors at Tata Memorial Centre, as is the protocol following an inmate’s death, but because of flooding across Dadar, even the police expressed helplessness over making arrangements to transport the body to the hospital, said Prashant Deshmukh, manager of the shelter.

Vikas finally got an ambulance at 4 pm. “I had to pay Rs 1,500 to cover the 3 km to the hospital,” said the final-year BSc student. Once the police and hospital procedures were completed, Baitha was cremated.

Vikas said the family was hoping to leave for their hometown in Bihar next month to allow Baitha to recuperate after his treatment. “He had responded well to the treatment. He was hopeful of beating cancer. It never occurred to any of us that he could die in this manner. My mother is still in shock.”

Deshmukh said the chemotherapy sessions scheduled for Wednesday of 70 inmates, including several children, had to be put off owing to the rising water level. “Our ground floor was submerged. We had to shift 60 patients from the basement and the ground floor to the upper floors,” he said, adding that the dharmashala hadn’t seen such flooding in three years.

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