While four more bodies were retrieved from the rubble taking the death toll in the City Light Hotel collapse to 17 on Tuesday, confusion prevailed over the mysterious disappearance of one of its workers, Ashok Kamble. Is he trapped underneath the debris or safe elsewhere?

The rescue operations that began within an hour of the building crumbling on Monday morning continued all through the night, albeit slowly and cautiously so as to ensure anyone still trapped inside can be rescued.

Members of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), which took up salvage operations from the National Industrial Security Academy (NISA) personnel from the previous night, surmised by evening that no one was beneath the debris. Yet questions remained about the fate of 40-year-old Kamble working in the hotel as a kitchen supplier for the past two years.

His family believes he was inside the hotel when it caved in on Monday morning. “When I rushed to the spot on learning about the building collapse, one of the injured hotel workers told me that my husband too was inside,” says his wife Meera. Accompanied by relatives, she had been running from Gandhi Hospital to the hotel site in Secunderabad in the last couple of days hoping to find her husband. Her anxiety only increased when the police concluded by evening that no one else was in the debris. Kamble was also not among the injured undergoing treatment.

“All the other victims had been identified and bodies were handed over to their respective families. But, where is my husband?” she pleaded with the police. She went to the hotel on Sunday afternoon to meet her husband, but was told by the owner that he had gone out on some work. After waiting for him till 8 p.m., she came back home only to hear the next morning that the hotel building had collapsed.

“We have searched almost every inch of the site. We feel no others are caught in the debris,” said NDRF Assistant Commandant Subheesh K.S. Police are analysing the call data record of his mobile phone to ascertain the location based on the last call made or received. The undamaged wall of the hotel abutting the main road too was pulled down since it posed a threat to passers-by.