A month after Thane resident Ajay Athwal, 32, disappeared down a nullah on August 29 during heavy rain while helping two women, his devastated family has not given up hope of finding his body. On Wednesday, a few men from Athwal's family climbed into the nullah and scoured the spot for his body. For six hours, they searched the area from Ramnagar nullah to Kopri.

Dasrat Athwal, Ajay's brother, said, "After we went into the nullah, the disaster management cell and the fire brigade officials suddenly reached the spot and got into the drain along with us for the search operation. Why did they not search for him on day one? My brother would have been traced if they had. We had hoped to find his body somewhere at the border of the nullah, but even after a six-hour search, we were unsuccessful."

Athwal's family said they had started looking for him since August 29, and decided to climb into the nullah as a last resort. They said they would try a few more times and if they did not succeed, they would go ahead with the last rites.

On August 29, Athwal had been trying to rescue two women who were struggling in the floodwater, but he slipped into the nullah. Ajay was married and has three children. His wife is pregnant with their fourth child. He was the sole earning member of the family.

Thane Municipal Commissioner Sanjeev Jaiswal has ordered a probe, but since it is almost a month since Athwal disappeared, chances of finding the body are slim. "We tried our best and used all methods to trace the missing man," said Santosh Kadam, senior official, Regional Disaster Management Cell of TMC.

A few members from political parties, who had joined the search op with the Athwals, appealed to the authorities to help the family financially and give his wife a job.