NATIONAL

All-time record rain in Mumbai; many Maharashtra villages marooned

A JOINT EFFORT: People hold on to a rope to cross a street in Mumbai on Wednesday.

A JOINT EFFORT: People hold on to a rope to cross a street in Mumbai on Wednesday.  

Death toll crosses 100; thousands of Mumbai commuters stranded; Army, Navy called out

Mumbai Bureau

MUMBAI: The rain that lashed Mumbai incessantly for the last 24 hours, submerging large parts of the city and bringing it to a standstill, has broken all records. From 8.30 a.m on Tuesday to the same time on Wednesday, Mumbai's suburbs recorded an unprecedented rainfall of 944.2 mm, exceeding the previous high of the world's wettest place, Cherrapunjee, which received 838.2 mm on July 12, 1910. Mumbai's highest till now, recorded more than 30 years ago on July 5, 1974, was 575.6 mm in the city (Colaba) and 375.2 mm in the suburbs (Santa Cruz), the weather bureau said.

Many parts of Maharashtra, including Mumbai, got some respite on Wednesday. But the damage done by Tuesday's torrential rain became evident through the day as reports came in of deaths and drowning, of villages marooned without food and water, of several landslips in Mumbai and elsewhere in the State and of dangerously high water levels in rivers. The State Government, with the help of the Army and the Navy launched a massive rescue operation in the six districts affected by the rains.

Large parts of Mumbai were inundated and there was little relief for thousands of people stranded on roads and railway platforms, in offices, at the airport and even in schools and colleges. The suburbs went without electricity and telephone, the local trains ran sporadically and the major arterial roads were either inundated or jammed with abandoned vehicles.

Many feared dead in landslip

A massive landslip in Saki Naka brought down a slum settlement killing at least 25 people. The toll is expected to go up to at least 100. The city recorded 27 deaths while the death toll in the State crossed 100. These do not include more than 100 feared buried under a landslip in Jui village in Raigad district. Six districts in the State and 60 villages have been affected. The Army and the Navy were called out to help in rescue and relief operations.

More rain predicted

The weather bureau has predicted heavy to very heavy rain in the next 36 hours. The State Government has declared a holiday for the next two days under the Negotiable Instruments Act. Speaking to reporters, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said the disaster management plan of the State could not cope with rainfall that exceeded three times the previous record.

The worst-affected district was Raigad where 45 deaths were reported, said Mr. Deshmukh. However, this figure does not include those feared buried under a landslip in Jui village near Mangaon. Until early afternoon, district authorities were unable to reach the village to assess the damage and carry out rescue operations. The Chief Minister said that 40 rescuers finally managed to reach the village. Authorities feared that the casualties would be high, as the victims had not been reached for over 24 hours.

In addition to the casualties in Raigad district, six deaths were reported from Ratnagiri district, eight from Thane and two from Beed. Sharif Khan, a social worker from the Saki Naka area, told The Hindu that at least 200 people were feared trapped under huge boulders that came crashing down on the slum. So far 25 bodies had been removed. The landslip occurred on Tuesday afternoon, but the rains hampered rescue work and those affected had received no help from the Government, he said.

Floods in rain-starved districts

Apart from Raigad and other Konkan coast districts, the rains played havoc in the usually rain-starved districts of Marathwada. Parbhani Collector M.S. Chowdhuri told The Hindu that the district, which normally got 773 mm of rain in a year, had received 605 mm in the last 48 hours. Much of this rain was in the catchment area of the Purna river, a tributary of the Godavari. As a result, there has been widespread flooding with 47 villages marooned. The district authorities have rescued and relocated around 2,500 people from eight or nine villages.

The Army has been called in and 105 Army personnel, trained in rescue operations, have arrived in the district headquarters.

The Ministry of Defence said the Army and the Navy had been called in, with seven columns of jawans to be deployed in the flood-affected areas. In addition, two columns with engineering equipment and four boats have been sent to Chiplun. One column each with equipment has been sent to Mahad, Parbhani, Thane and Kalina (in Mumbai). One column has also been deployed in the Pimpri-Chinchwad area of Pune where many industries are located.

Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Navy, Vice-Admiral Madanjit Singh has put the Western Naval Command on full alert and sent two naval frigates with food and other relief material to Srivardhan in Raigad district and Dabhol in Ratnagiri district. Relief material and inflatable craft have also been sent to Mangaon in Raigad district, the closest point to Jui village where the landslip has taken place. The Navy is approaching many of these areas with divers on inflatable craft.

For the very first time, the Navy has had to step in for rescue operations in Mumbai's suburbs. Kalina, not far from the airport, has been under water since Tuesday night. Two teams of naval divers were sent by road to the area. Naval helicopters have been used to drop food packets in Kurla and Kalina in Mumbai. Naval boats and diving teams have also been standing by to assist in Karanja (Uran) north of Mumbai.

48,000 evacuated

About 48,000 people were evacuated to safer places in the State, including 10,000 in Mumbai, 15,000 in Thane district, 12,000 in Nanded and 5,000 in Raigad and Ratnagiri.

Mumbai's public transport system took a severe beating. A Western Railways spokesperson said that local trains were running only between Churchgate and Mahalaxmi, in central Mumbai, and then again from Bandra, a western suburb, to Virar. However, no train could traverse the central parts of the city as the tracks at Mahim and Matunga were submerged. The Central Railway offered local services only up to Dadar in central Mumbai and cancelled all its long distance services till noon on Thursday.

Western Railway cancelled all long distance trains; in-coming trains were terminated at Valsad in Gujarat. Of the 2,412 city buses, another lifeline of the city, only 394 plied.

Both the domestic and international terminals of the Mumbai airport were closed after the entire runway was flooded.

Air India flights could not land in the city on Tuesday and were diverted to New Delhi.

Officials of the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Airports Authority of India said in New Delhi on Wednesday that the airport was likely to be made operational only by Thursday afternoon.

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