M A I N   N E W S

Rain wreaks havoc in Mumbai
Metro virtually cut off; power, telecom, train services hit
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, July 27
Record rains in the past two days have claimed more than a hundred lives in Maharashtra’s Mumbai and Konkan even as the Army, Navy and the Home Guards have begun rescue operations to save several thousand people across the state.

In Mumbai at least 25 persons have died after landslides caused mud and rocks to slip on slums at Marol in the city’s western suburb of Andheri. According to the police most of the victims were children and women who were living in slums built on a slope. Efforts were on to rescue people buried under the debris, the police said. At least two more deaths were reported from the Dharavi slum colony where rainwater submerged power lines causing the victims to be electrocuted, police and fire brigade said.

Record rainfall exceeding 944 millimetres caused low lying areas to be flooded and washed away railway tracks in the city’s lifelines — Western and Central Railways.

The rainfall in Mumbai recorded today was higher than that received by Cherrapunji, met officials said. The highest record was of 838 mm rain on July 12, 1910 at Cherrapunji, weather officials said. “Most places in India don’t receive this kind of rainfall in a year,” RV Sharma, director of the meteorological department said.

The city’s 10 million train commuters descended on the city’s overstretched roads breaking the straining infrastructure. Commuters who left their offices early Tuesday afternoon spent as much as 15 hours in the city’s red BEST buses before reaching home in the suburbs 45 km away.

“I was trapped in a single decker bus at Santa Cruz in which water rose to chest level,” said Anamika Seth who was among those rescued by locals. Volunteers tied huge ropes to the buses and made the bus passengers float on huge drums before they were moved to safety. In the low-lying Kalina bus depot traffic officials swam to a bus submerged in 10-feet water and pulled out passengers to safety.

Long distance trains connecting Mumbai to other parts of the country too have been cancelled. Rajdhani and August Krani Express connecting the city with Delhi have been cancelled. Other trains plying in the Konkan region were terminated at various stations. Passengers on the Mumbai-Goa route of the Konkan Railway were stranded at various stations for over 36 hours as road and train services continue to be cut off.

The plight of Mumbai’s citizens worsened as telephone services including mobile phone networks crashed. While the Orange phone service was down throughout the day, Airtel, BPL and MTNL restored services this afternoon. Suburbanites spent much of Tuesday night in darkness as the Reliance Energy Ltd shut down supply after flood waters damaged equipment. Power was restored only after the flood waters receded.

Many offices in South Mumbai allowed their employees to stay on the premises overnight on Tuesday. However, those who had left the offices in the afternoon were stranded mid-way. In many parts of the city people chose to walk 40 km wading through water in a bid to reach home.

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh told reporters at the secretariat that the worst affected areas were Bandra, Mahim, Santacruz, Mira Road, Byculla, Kurla, Ghatkopar, Mulund, Thane and Badlapur. He estimated the total damage at Rs 500 crore and said the amount was certain to increase.

The police said roads connecting the city’s southern-most tip housing the business areas of Nariman Point, Ballard Estate and Churchgate to the suburbs were blocked. Traffic was disrupted in both directions as areas like Santa Cruz, Andheri in the North and Mahalaxmi, Lower Parel and Elphinstone Road in Central Mumbai were flooded.

According to the Weather Bureau, Santa Cruz in the suburbs received 944 mm or rainfall in a matter of hours. Met officials this was the highest rainfall recorded in 31 years. The torrential rainfall was attributed to a trough stretching from the Konkan and Goa coast extending to coastal Karnataka which has intensified.

The deluge continued to wreak havoc in the Konkan region, including Goa and parts of Karnataka, were the Army and Navy were pressed in for rescue operations. So far 5,000 jawans of Army, Air Force and Navy have been deployed in Mumbai alone, state government officials said.

Flights hit

The Mumbai airport was closed for the second consecutive day today as the runway was waterlogged. The Airport Authority of India officials say the downpour damaged navigation and the Instrument Landing System and Distance Measuring Instrument forcing flights to be diverted. International flights arriving in Mumbai were diverted to Delhi and Gujarat. Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh too was forced to delay the survey of flood-affected areas due to bad weather.

However, partial services were restored by 4 pm after the rains subsided.

Reliance Energy officials said power was restored to 75 per cent of the suburbs after rain water receded. Power had to be disconnected after ground floors of several buildings in the suburbs were nearly submerged by rain water.

Meanwhile, the state government has declared a public holiday today. Schools in Mumbai and neighbouring Thane district were asked to remain closed today and tomorrow in view of the heavy rains. Mr Deshmukh has also urged people to stay in their homes and not venture out as heavy rains were forecast for the next 48 hours.

The Reserve Bank of India too declared a bank holiday today under the Negotiable Instruments Act.

State authorities said the Pune-Western Express Highway has been closed and all trains to Pune have been cancelled as railway tracks were submerged. Ratnagiri, Raigarh and Sindugarh districts of the state have been cut-off from Mumbai even as Mahad, Mangaon and Chiplun remain cut-off from the rest of the country.

Rivers overflow

Mumbai’s worries of a water shortage till last week turned into a problem of plenty as the Tulsi and Vihar reservoirs located near the suburbs overflowed last night. Several neighbourhoods were flooded in the suburbs as a result. The Mithi river into which Vihar overflows spilt into the Mumbai airport.

The Disaster Management Department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) was taken by surprise and could not begin relief operations. The Army had to be called in for help.

In many places here, policemen called for rescue were trapped in their own vehicles as water levels rose more than five feet.

TV serials hit

Shootings of several popular television serials have been suspended. Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi (Star Plus), Kahiin To Hoga (Star Plus), Kareena Kareena (Zee), Kasautii Zindagi Kay, Kesar, Kkusum and Kaisa Ye Pyar Hai were all hit as the crew could not make to work.


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