Mumbai 2005, Chennai 2015: Cities that came to a halt after heavy rains and floods
India’s financial capital Mumbai went under after heavy rains battered the city for four consecutive days on Tuesday.
Local train services were stalled and roads were inundated, leaving commuters stranded in knee-deep waters in several areas across the city on Tuesday.
This isn’t the first time life in Mumbai, or a sprawling urban landscape, has ground to a halt due to floods. The American state of Texas is currently flooded, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey that hit Houston on Friday.
While the underlying cause of the flooding may be different, the factors exacerbating these disasters are similar, say experts. The tale is the same everywhere: unplanned construction, deforestation, insufficient drainage system and poor disaster response are the major culprits.
Here are five times India’s cities found themselves facing floods after a heavy deluge:
Mumbai is no stranger to floods. It suffers almost every other year when there is a downpour. But twelve years ago, Mumbai drowned in 944mm of rain and over 500 people died. Mumbai’s civic infrastructure crumbled under the onslaught of rain and the city was flooded, with residents wading in chest-high water. Airports were shut for 30 hours, trains were cancelled, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway was shut down and mobile networks were hit. Stranded residents sought shelter in colleges, offices and even in the homes of strangers.
The deluge is referred to ever since simply as ‘26/7’ in the manner of a terrorist attack.
In September 2014, Jammu and Kashmir’s worst floods in 60 years killed more than 200 and displaced almost a million for weeks. Major parts of the Srinagar city, including the Lal Chowk, army cantonment and Civil Lines areas were submerged. Thousands were evacuated by the army and rescue forces but many were stranded on the upper stories of their houses. All the vital roads were submerged and there was waterlogging even in the civil secretariat and Jammu and Kashmir high court. Hospitals were badly affected too.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took office that year, took an aerial survey of the flood situation and later announced a special package for the state.
A mix of flood waters and neck-deep sewage swelled in Chennai after weeks of monsoon rains resulted in a cloudburst in November-December 2015. The floods claimed the lives of 270 in one of India’s most populous cities.
As images emerged showing people being rescued through boats, the sight of three dozen airliners with their undercarriages covered by flood waters at the Chennai international airport made people wonder if it was built in the wrong place. Mobile network and landlines too were knocked out in most of the city.
While Chennai was not unique, experts said it was worse hit than the rest of India’s southeastern seaboard because of the development boom that has gone unchecked, including rampant illegal construction.
Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, 2017
Heavy overnight rains pounded Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar in Gujarat, throwing life out of gear in July. The death toll touched at least 129 in the state devastated by heavy flooding since the monsoon rains began a month ago. Both cities recorded 7 and 8 inches of rainfall over the night, leaving public transport crippled due to waterlogged roads.
In July 2005, incessant rains across the state killed dozens and left thousands trapped. Parts of the Ahmedabad airport were damaged and several helicopters, army columns, NDRF teams were deployed for rescue operations.