1,052 rescued from train in 5-hr operation near flooded Vangani
At the end of a five-hour long operation, 1,052 passengers of Mahalaxmi Express were rescued after the train got stranded on waterlogged tracks, 70km from Mumbai, early on Saturday morning. Four National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams, four columns from the Navy, two military columns, civic officials and local residents worked together to bring the passengers to safety.
“All the passengers were rescued safely from Mahalaxmi Express. They were provided food and medical aid,” said Rajesh Narvekar, collector, Thane district.
Rescue operations were completed by 3.30pm on Saturday. After getting off the train, passengers had to wade through the water and then climb up a hillock to reach the main road, where emergency facilities awaited them. Locals served tea, water and food to the rescued passengers as they made their way to the main road. Among the rescued were nine pregnant women, one of whom — Rashmi Bansal — is nine months’ pregnant and was admitted to a local hospital after she suffered labour pain.
Mahalaxmi Express left Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus at 8.32pm on Friday. It got stuck at Ambernath station, around 10pm because rain had waterlogged the tracks at Badlapur and Ambernath stations.
The water receded around 2.30am, after which operations resumed. Between 3am and 4am, Mahalaxmi Express crossed Badlapur and got stranded at a spot in a low-lying area which flooded due the overflowing Ulhas river nearby and rainwater coming down from surrounding hills.
Residents of Kasgaon village say they alerted authorities at around 6am that a train was stranded. Central Railways (CR) alerted state authorities at around the same time, but rescue teams reached the spot only at 9.30am. Rescue operations started around 10.30am. By 11.00am, one coach had been evacuated by the Thane Disaster Management Cell. While waiting for rescue teams, seven passengers had jumped off the train and were helped by locals, who threw ropes to guide them to safe spots.
Two NDRF teams from Mumbai and two from Pune – each with 45 personnel – along with four columns from the Navy, disaster response teams of local civic bodies and residents of the area worked together to rescue the passengers. The Navy also scrambled divers equipped with inflatable crafts. Two military columns along with 130 trained staff carrying food packages, water and rescue material, were also deployed. Helicopters from the Indian Air Force and the Navy were used to conduct aerial surveys, but had to return due to poor weather.
Relief arrangements by local authorities included several ambulances, 37 doctors, 14 special buses to ferry the rescued passengers, a special local train from Badlapur to CST, and a special train from Kalyan to Kolhapur. The special train left from Kalyan at 6.13pm. At the time of going to press, the empty Mahalaxmi Express was still stranded since the water had not fully receded.
On Friday, many suburban and outstation trains were stuck for hours in the Kalyan-Karjat section of CR as tracks at Badlapur and Ambernath stations were flooded due to heavy rain. Railway authorities called NDRF and local authorities late at night. NDRF reached the spot at 2.30am on Saturday and rescued passengers till 4am, after reaching the spot at 2.30 am.
Heavy rain in Raigad and Ratnagiri districts also affected train operation on the Mumbai-Goa route of Konkan Railway. Train operation was suspended for hours on Saturday morning when the water level of Ghot river at Mangaon touched the danger mark.
CR suspended train operation between Kalyan-Karjat-Khopoli. Some trains were diverted to an alternate route between Karjat-Panvel-Diva stations. However, a landslide occurred at Bhor Ghat early on Saturday morning, leading to further chaos. Several outstation trains were diverted, cancelled and short terminated.