As Mumbaiites waded through water-logged railway tracks, got stuck in traffic jams and struggled to get through the day, an SMS alert warning citizens that “Mumbai is about to face the highest rainfall ever in the next 48 hours” created panic and worsened an already bad situation.
Reports of water-logging, caused by the incessant rain, started pouring in as early as 1pm. Traffic jams were reported in at least 12 areas.
The text alert, which was sent to hundreds of Mumbaiites, claimed to have been from the civic body and the police, but late on Tuesday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation denied that it had issued any such warning.
The BMC’s clarification, however, came much too late – by then anxious office- goers had rushed out to return home despite heavy rain and schools and colleges had cancelled classes.
The result: the already delayed trains got more packed and even more vehicles poured out on to flooded, congested roads, leading to a chaos that could have been avoided.
The BMC asked residents to ignore such rumours.
“Any person found guilty of sending false alarm will be booked under the National Disaster Management Act and a case will be registered with Mumbai police’s cyber cell,” warned the BMC’s press release, rather inconsequentially.
Through the day, social networking sites were abuzz with traffic updates and citizens expressed disappointment in the way the situation was handled by authorities.
“Waterlogging and traffic on LBS Marg near Sion station. It’s taken me over an hour to get here from Kurla,” tweeted a Mumbaiite.
At least 27 important spots flooded, affecting traffic flow. Areas such as Hindmata, Andheri subway, Elphinstone Road, LBS Marg in Mulund, Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road remained water-logged until late evening. Both highways saw traffic jams.
Senior BMC officials maintained that everything was done to ensure smooth commute for Mumbaiites.
“The commissioner himself inspected the work of the disaster management cell and ensured the city did not come to a halt,” an official said.
Manisha Mhaiskar, additional municipal commissioner in charge of disaster management, said:
“Considering the geography of the city, high tide coupled with heavy rainfall will create inconvenience to residents. However, all dewatering pumps were operational and maximum efforts were taken to ensure smooth travel.”