M A I N   N E W S

200 trapped in landslides
Maharashtra deluge toll 600
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, July 28
With heavy rain continuing to lash parts of Maharashtra, the death toll in the state’s worst monsoon deluge this year has claimed over 600 lives, according to state government sources.

The death toll in Mumbai, Thane district and adjoining areas alone is likely to cross the 275-mark as police and fire brigade personnel retrieve bodies of people washed away. Fire brigade officials say, bodies are being recovered from the creeks and rivers that run through Mumbai, Thane, Panvel, Ambernath and other places as the flood waters recede.

In some areas, the police recovered the bodies of motorists who were crushed to death in their vehicles after trees and walls crashed down on them. Elsewhere people were electrocuted inside their cars when power lines crashed onto them, the police said.

The police said here this evening that at least 200 persons were missing from different parts of the city. At Saki Naka in Andheri where a landslide buried a slum cluster, police and fire brigade expect the toll to go up. So far 47 bodies have been recovered. But hopes are fading for those buried alive.

At Kalina in suburban Mumbai, where the water levels rose 15 feet on Tuesday, the authorities recovered the bodies of at least three persons. Many of the victims were slum dwellers unable to move towards higher ground as flood waters completely inundated their habitations.

Residents of buildings in the affected areas began to return home and clear their premises of muck, dead organisms and other bits of flotsam.

In places like Saki Naka, debris from Tuesday’s landslide is still being cleared. At least 45 persons have perished after stones and rubble came down on the slums beneath a hill.

According to state government officials, the monsoon’s fury continues unabated in the town of Nashik where water levels continued to rise on Thursday. Though people living on the banks of the Godavari and minor streams like the Aaram, Mosam and Girna were evacuated, the administration expects casualties. With the Gangapur, Darna and Chankapur dams in Nashik filling up, the local administration had to release water further inconveniencing people downstream.

The rain continued to hit the Mumbai-Pune expressway.

Late this afternoon the Mumbai-Pune lane was cleared for traffic, but traffic on the opposite direction continued to be hit. Vehicles going from Pune to Mumbai were being diverted via the old national highway.

Though parts of Maharashtra that suffered in this week’s deluge are limping back, infrastructure is badly affected. Officials say some 14,000 train passengers are still stranded at various railway stations across the state. Services on the Konkan Railway has been suspended indefinitely as the track was washed away at many places.

Normal life in Mumbai continues to be hit with banks, financial institutions and the stock market being shut for the day. Even the transport system is likely to remain affected for several days, officials said.

Nearly a quarter of the 3500 buses with Mumbai’s BEST undertaking have been damaged in the floods.

Similarly trains from the Central and Western Railways that got stuck in flooded tracks will have to undergo repairs before being pressed into service. Most of them won’t be back in service before Monday, officials say.

Mumbai’s airport, which was cleared of flood water yesterday, opened for traffic this morning. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s flight was the first to touch down this morning. Commercial airlines have begun to gradually resume domestic and international-flights though normalcy would be restored only after a few days. The first commercial flight, an Indian Airlines aircraft, took off for Delhi from Mumbai at 1.20 pm with 145 passengers on board.

The Prime Minister then undertook an aerial survey to study the destruction caused by the rains.

The city’s traffic department announced today that the bottlenecks on the arterial Eastern and the Western Express Highways were completely cleared. Motorists spent as much as 22 hours on the roads from Tuesday. In many places people were returning to pick up the cars they had left behind on the roadside.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced Rs 700-crore aid for relief and rehabilitation efforts in Maharashtra in the wake of damage caused due to heavy rains.

“In addition to the Rs 200 crore already announced from the National Contingency Fund and the National Calamity Fund, we are now releasing Rs 500 crore as special assistance,” Dr Manmohan Singh told reporters here after conducting an aerial survey of the affected areas of Mumbai and neighbouring districts of Raigad and Thane.

The Prime Minister said the families of those killed due to this natural calamity would receive Rs 1 lakh each.

The Prime Minister said he would direct the Surface Transport Department to restore national highways at the earliest.

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