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Maharashtra floods toll now 112; 99 missing; 135K evacuated

The death toll due to the floods and landslides triggered by unprecedented rain over the past 48 hours in the Konkan and western Maharashtra regions climbed to 112 on Saturday, official data revealed
By Faisal Malik, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JUL 25, 2021 12:17 AM IST

The death toll due to the floods and landslides triggered by unprecedented rain over the past 48 hours in the Konkan and western Maharashtra regions climbed to 112 on Saturday, official data revealed. Rescue workers combed through the mud and debris in a desperate search for survivors with 99 still missing. A total of 135,313 people were evacuated from vulnerable areas.

The monsoon mayhem of the past two days has caused the worst floods in decades in Raigad, Ratnagiri, Palghar, Thane, Sindhudurg, Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara districts. Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray visited the hillside Taliye village in Raigad, where a landslide left just two concrete structures standing and flattened dozens of homes in a matter of minutes, burying 49 alive. He announced that the state will work out a plan to resettle people living in landslide-prone areas. He also said the government is preparing a floodwater-management plan.

On Sunday, the chief minister will visit Chiplun in Ratnagiri district, most affected by floods.

The state government with the help of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Coast Guard, Navy and Army, undertook rescue operations in the most affected districts. According to official information, 890 villages in nine districts were affected due to the torrential downpour and landslides since Thursday. Most people were shifted from the Sangli and Kolhapur districts — 78,111 and 40,882 respectively — according to the statistics released by the state relief and rehabilitation department.

Rescue and relief work was hampered due to poor connectivity at some places. In Mahad in Raigad district, NDRF teams could not be sent by air as the helicopter carrying them could not operate due to bad weather. Residents in the flood-affected Chiplun town of Ratnagiri, which was mostly submerged on Thursday, expressed their anguish that the pace of relief work was too slow. They complained that even drinking water was not available. Water and electricity supply was badly hit in flood-affected parts of Ratnagiri and Raigad districts.

As of Thursday, 11 cases of landslides were reported in the state. Taliye, Sakhar-Sutarwadi and Kevnale in Raigad, Posare in Ratnagiri, Ranjangaon in Sindhudurg and Ambeghar, Mirgaon, Humbarli, Dhokavale, Kondavli and Mojezor in Satara saw landslides where several people were found trapped and many lost their lives. A total of 135,313 people have been evacuated and shifted to safer places. However, 99 people are still missing, said a senior official from the relief and rehabilitation department.

Thackeray on Saturday visited the Taliye village, where around 50 people are still feared trapped under the debris of at least 32 houses. Thackeray assured all the help and rehabilitation of affected people. He said the state was experiencing unprecedented incidents and required smart measures as no agency can predict the intensity and quantity of rains. The hopes of finding survivors in Taliye, Mirgaon, Dhokawale and Ambeghar in Satara were fading away as the rescue operation was stalled due to heavy rain on the third day. At Taliye, loose mud prevented NDRF from resuming digging to look for the missing. Locals said the rescue operation was progressing slowly due to bad weather and difficulty.

“The state government will see no such incidents will happen in future and even if they happened, no human life will be lost in future. In order to achieve this, the state government will have to rehabilitate all villages located at hillslopes and foothills. The residents of such villages will be resettled at safer places,” Thackeray told mediapersons. “This has become necessary as no agency can forecast the intensity and quantity of rain, which is pushing the state into unprecedented conditions,” he added.

He also declared to prepare a water management scheme, which will help in the state in the management of excessive water so that flooding can be avoided. Three districts in western Maharashtra — Kolhapur, Satara and Sangli — are hit by floods. Earlier in 2019 too. This area saw devastation due to flooded rivers. “We have started working on formulating a water management scheme to overcome the flood situation in the state. It will ensure management of excessive water collected in catchment areas of dams due to heavy rains, which often results in floods following discharge from dams,” Thackeray said.

Although floodwater is receding in many areas in Konkan, it is rising in a few districts of western Maharashtra owing to discharge of water from dams. Till Saturday afternoon, 29,960 cusecs of water was released from Koyna dam. In addition to this, 10,420 cusec from Dhom dam, 5,237 cusec from Kanher, 4,645 cusec from Urmodi, 6,810 cusec from Tarali and 3,183 cusec from Dhom Balkawadi dam was released leading to overflowing of a few rivers and rise in floodwater levels in many areas of Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara districts, the officials said.

Pune-Bengaluru national highway was closed owing to flooding, which led to a long queue of vehicles on the highway.

Satara district collector Shekhar Singh said that 379 villages were affected due to flooding in Satara district of western Maharashtra leading to 18 deaths and 24 missing. Of them, 167 villages were entirely affected and 212 villages were partially affected. Around 1,324 families from the district were rescued and shifted to the safer places.

Sangli district collector Abhijeet Chaudhari said that 94 villages have been affected by floods and 22,467 families will be evacuated to safer places in the district.

Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar in Pune said the state government is coordinating with its Karnataka counterpart to ensure flood relief for the people, especially in Kolhapur district, by releasing water from Almatti dam, which is downstream.

He also said the state government has decided to distribute ration kits with rice, pulses, and kerosene in ration kits. “Normally, wheat, rice, pulses and kerosene are distributed as part of ration kits but considering the current situation wheat flour may not be available and hence the state government decided to provide rice, pulses, and kerosene in ration kits, which will help people to prepare khichdi as a meal,” Pawar said further.

Meanwhile, union minister of education and skill development Dharmendra Pradhan declared that students in Maharashtra from flood affected districts will be given another chance to appear for the engineering entrance test — JEE (Main)-2021 session 3. The National Testing Agency announced that the exam dates will be announced soon.

“In light of the heavy rain and landslides in Maharashtra, to assist the Maharashtra student community, I have advised the NTA to grant another opportunity to all candidates who may not be able to reach the test centre for JEE (Main)-2021 Session 3,” Pradhan tweeted.

“Students from Kolhapur, Palghar, Ratnagiri, Raigad, Sindhudurg, Sangli, & Satara, who are unable to reach their test centres on 25 & 27 July 2021 for JEE (Main)-2021 Session 3 need not panic. They will be given another opportunity,and the dates will be announced soon by the NTA,” he added.

The third session of JEE main is scheduled on July 20, 22, 25, and 27 . NTA had already conducted the JEE Main Session 3 exams on July 20 and July 22 successfully.

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