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Mumbai turns into a waterworld

So chaotic is the situation that police have urged people to stay indoors.Flashback 2005 | Share your experience...
None | By Indo-Asian News Service, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUL 04, 2006 08:13 PM IST

Water seeped into homes, roads and train tracks got submerged, public transport was crippled and thousands trudged in knee deep water as Mumbai drowned after days of heavy showers in a virtual repeat of last year's monsoon disaster.

So chaotic was the situation that the city's police chief urged Mumbai's 14 million people to stay indoors.

The appeal was promptly heeded, partly because even those who tried to venture out in their vehicles returned home frustrated after finding no trace of many of the roads.

"We have something called disaster management, but I can tell you that itself is a disaster," R Venkataraman, an executive of Hero Hondo, said over the phone.

"This is what happened last year, and in one long year they have done nothing and learnt nothing to make our lives better," Venkataraman added, explaining how it took him an hour to cover about two kilometres from his house in Kandivli in north Mumbai. He works at Marol in Andheri area, 14 km away.

"Can you imagine that the Mumbai-Ahmedabad link, our national highway, was flooded? Believe it or not, I could not re-enter my apartment block because that had got flooded! So I stayed on a nearby road, waiting for the water to recede to some extent. Thank god the phone worked. Even now there is knee deep water."

Similar complaints poured in from almost all parts of Mumbai. In some areas, the authorities cut off electricity supply to prevent short circuits.

The worst scenes were witnessed in Kalina, where rainwater, the colour turning greenish after passing through gutters and sewers, entered scores of homes in a torrent, submerging furniture, refrigerators and everything else.

"This is what happened last year, and this is what is happening again," a young resident told reporters, gesticulating angrily.

Others quickly added that unlike now, last year the waters had entered even the first floor homes at Kalina, located close to Mumbai's airport.

Five people were reportedly killed Monday in and around this megalopolis. The city received 131.48 mm rain in the western suburbs, 160.5 mm in the eastern suburbs and 127.3 mm in the city -- a far cry from the 944 mm on July 26, 2005, but enough to create panic amongst Mumbaikars.

Schools were declared closed in Mumbai Tuesday and train services stalled as rains continued unabated for the fourth consecutive day.

The downpour started at about 5 am and intensified from 8 am, falling in huge thick curtains.

The rail service -- the city's lifeline -- was on track till about 9.30 am. Then the central railway line got waterlogged.

Two main lines -- from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal (CST) New Delhi to Karjat in Thane district, 120 km away, and from CST to Panvel in Thane -- came to a standstill.

And with no buses or taxis, the thousands who would have travelled by trains had no choice but to walk -- through flooded streets, like an army of ants, one behind another holding their open umbrellas and protecting their mobile phones.

Government authorities sought to dispel fears of a repeat of the 26/7 deluge, saying the city was much better prepared to face such situations this year.

The Disaster Management Group claimed it was on the job. The fire brigade and employees of the city's civic organisation, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, were reportedly on alert.

But Mumbai residents had other ideas.

"What preparation? They have done nothing in the last one year," said Venkataraman. "There is absolutely no improvement. Imagine a highway going under water? Who can beat that?

"Even TV cable is not working. So we have no idea of what the authorities are saying. It is a mess."

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