Heavy rains paralyse life in Mumbai; at least three dead, waist-deep waters throw traffic out of gear
People were left stranded at railway stations, officers and inside cars. News agency reported that two people died following a landslide in Vikhroli’s Surya NagarUpdated: Aug 30, 2017 07:04 IST
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
The monsoon dumped 300mm of torrential rain on India’s business capital Mumbai, causing waist-deep floods that paralysed the road and suburban train network, disrupted flights and left thousands of people stranded at workplaces, stations and in cars on Tuesday.
According to ANI reports, two people died following a landslide in Vikhroli’s Surya Nagar. One person died and two were injured in a building collapse in Varsha Nagar.
People scurried for cover and waded through waterlogged roads to get home, holding onto guardrails to avoid falling into manholes. The mayhem brought memories of a similar but bigger catastrophe in 2005 that killed more than 500 people.
Authorities struggled to tackle the flooding compounded by the evening high tide that stopped the rainwater from draining out into the Arabian Sea.
The megapolis of more than 20 million people braced for bigger trouble as the weather office issued a “Red” warning, indicating there could be more heavy rainfall in the next 24 hours.
The downpour flooded tracks of all three suburban railway system — Central, Western and Harbour lines — the city’s lifeline that carries more than seven million commuters every day.
Flights were delayed by over 45 minutes, at least six cancelled and as many diverted as runways of the city’s busy airport were inundated.
Officials at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport said heavy rain, strong winds and poor visibility disrupted air traffic.
National carrier Air India waived all penalties for flyers such as on no-show and date change because of the rough weather.
Passengers of the Nagpur-Mumbai Duronto Express had a lucky escape as nine coaches of the train derailed near Asangaon, about 70km north of the city.
Authorities said a rain-induced landslide damaged portions of the tracks.
“The driver saw the landslide and applied the brakes. That’s why there were no injuries,” Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani told reporters in New Delhi.
The train had 18 Linke Hofmann Busch coaches made in Kapurthala. These Germany-designed carriages don’t turn over in a collision or derailment, officials said.
Most schools in Mumbai were closed as the city is celebrating its most revered annual Hindu festival, Ganeshotsav.
Maharashtra education minister Vinod Tawde instructed colleges and schools to remain shut on Wednesday as well.
But the civic administration has its hands full as people were flocking temples and temporary stages where god Ganesh is being worshipped.
The trouble began on Tuesday when the train service was stopped from 12.30pm. Many businesses asked employees to leave early in expectation of traffic jams.
Office-goers streamed out and started walking home along flooded roads that were chock-a-block with vehicles. The buses and cars hadn’t moved an inch in hours.
As trains were cancelled, thousands of people were forced a long wait at stations. Some tried to reach home walking along swamped tracks.
Many people stayed put at their offices, while some made it to the homes of friends or relatives living nearby.
The only mode of public transport that ran through the day was the elevated Metro line between Andheri and Ghatkopar, a short distance of 5km.
Rainwater flooded the King Edward Memorial Hospital in central Mumbai, forcing doctors to vacate the paediatric ward on the ground floor.
“We are worried about infections ... the rainwater is circulating rubbish that is now entering parts of the emergency ward,” said Ashutosh Desai, a doctor in the 1,800-bed hospital.
The Maharashtra government and the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which is using close to 140 pumps to flush out the floodwater, appealed to people to stay indoors unless it is absolutely necessary to step out.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too urged the people to stay safe and take essential precautions. He spoke to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and assured full central help to mitigate the situation.
Helicopters and divers were placed on standby to meet any eventuality in the rain-battered city and its satellite towns, the navy said.
For his part, President Ram Nath Kovind tweeted: “Thoughts with families, especially children, in Mumbai & western parts of country hit by heavy downpour.”
And added that he was “glad to note voluntary groups and citizens too coming together” to help.
Voluntary groups worked with rescue teams, while Sikh and Jain temples, charities and Ganpati mandals provided food, water and shelter to the stranded people.
Mumbai struggles with flooding from incessant monsoon rain every year. Unabated construction on floodplains and coastal areas, as well as storm-water drains and waterways clogged by plastic garbage and silt, has made the city increasingly vulnerable to floods.
The floods after the 2005 tragedy are also political events, benchmarks by which a government’s abilities are measured.
The monsoon that runs from late June to September and delivers about 70% of India’s annual rainfall has been erratic this year with Mumbai, the Northeast and Bihar receiving more than normal rain and regions in Karnataka, southern Maharashtra, western Madhya Pradesh and eastern Gujarat getting deficient downpour.
But unprecedented rain flooded districts in northern Gujarat and Rajasthan for the first time in decades.
Till Monday, the overall rainfall for India was 5% less than normal.
(With agency inputs)
First Published: Aug 30, 2017 00:05 IST