Over 1,000 rescued from stranded train after 17 hrs
In a multi-agency operation on Saturday, over 1,000 passengers, including nine pregnant women, were rescued from the Mumbai-Kolhapur Mahalaxmi Express that was stranded for close to 17 hours due to flooding caused by incessant rains.
Teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the Air Force, Army, Navy, State Disaster Authority, state police, Railway Police, fire departments of nearby municipalities along with locals helped rescue the passengers marooned at Vangani — 80 km from Mumbai — where the Ulhas river rose and jammed the Central Railway (CR) line.
“All the passengers were rescued safely from Mahalaxmi Express. They are being provided with food and medical aid. There were nine pregnant women in the train who were safely rescued. One of them is admitted to a nearby hospital for check-ups,” said Rajesh Narvekar, collector of Thane district. Nine-month pregnant Reshma Kamble, a passenger who went into labour, is now under observation at Shushrut Hospital in Badlapur.
“It was dark outside when the train was stuck. We tried flashing mobile light and check, and saw water everywhere. This is how we figured out it was flood on track. We had no idea about the water level. We tried calling up the toll free numbers but there was no response,” said Appasaheb Patil, 40, who had visited Mumbai for medical treatment.
Mahalaxmi Express left Mumbai around 8.15 pm on Friday. Passengers said the train first halted before Ambernath station and again at Badlapur station. Around 12.30am, the train started for Karjat station, but got stranded in the floodwater of the Ulhas river, near Vangani.
The NDRF teams began evacuating passengers using inflatable rubber boats, even as Navy divers with specialised equipment, a Seaking and MI-17 helicopters of the IAF, and four columns of the Army were pressed into action. Passengers who had jumped from the train before the teams arrived were rescued by local villagers. A fleet of ambulances with 37 doctors, including gynecologists, was kept ready to treat passengers. The passengers were first ferried to Badlapur, 7 km away, in buses and tempos. The CR organised a special train at Kalyan to ferry passengers to Kolhapur.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis instructed chief secretary Ajoy Mehta to monitor the evacuation operations and coordinate with various agencies engaged in the rescue work.The CM said the district administration had made arrangement for meals and fresh water at Sahyadri Mangal Karyalaya and other locations in villages between the stranded train and Badlapur. While Thane city recorded 160 mm rainfall till 8 am on Saturday, Kalyan, Ulhasnagar and Amberanth recorded over 200 mm of rainfall each, the district collector’s office said.
Other suburban and outstation trains were stuck between Kalyan-Karjat section, as the tracks at Badlapur and Ambernath stations were flooded due to heavy rain from 7pm on Friday. Local trains too were affected, stranding hundreds of passengers. The CR suspended train operations on the Kalyan-Karjat-Khopoli lines, and diverted trains through Karjat, Panvel and Diva stations.
Heavy rain in Raigad and Ratnagiri districts also hit the train operation on Mumbai-Goa route of Konkan Railway. Eleven flights were cancelled in Mumbai airport, and nine diverted to nearby airports on Saturday. The India Meteorological Department has issued a red alert for Mumbai, Thane and Palghar, Raigad for Sunday.