Mumbai: As Mumbai limped backed to normalcy after a day of torrential rains, most city roads wore a deserted look with the government declaring schools and colleges shut. At least five people were reported killed in different rain-related incidents overnight.
While the rains took a breather on Wednesday, with the sun coming out briefly in the afternoon, the Central Railway struggled to restore its services, with four trains on the Main line and three on the Harbour line being marooned — declared inoperational — due to the downpour and flooding. The Western Railway however, restored partial services late last night, with some operational delays through Wednesday. Commuters, and long distance travellers were left stranded and ended up spending the night at the stations.
Mumbai airport was also home to many stranded passengers on Tuesday night with many of the arriving passengers refusing to leave the building and preferring to wait inside and the traffic outside preventing their families from receiving them.
As per information provided by the Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL), about 15,000 passengers arriving at the Terminal 1 (domestic terminal at Santacruz) chose to stay put till Wedensday morning before leaving the terminal. These passengers also refused to avail of free shuttle rides to important stations like Dadar and Andheri, because no trains were running.
“Inclement weather during the last 24 hours, including the suspension of arrivals and departures between 4.15 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the airport impacted flight schedules, resulting in flights from Mumbai being delayed by up to 30 to 40 minutes,” Jet Airways said in a statement. All airlines waived off rescheduling and cancellation charges from the city.
At least five people were reported killed in different rain-related incidents in the Brihanamumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) limits alone. Two deaths each were reported from Palghar and Ghansoli. “The victims were brought in with various rain related accidents like drowning, fall etc,” Dr. Avinash Supe, director of major civic hospitals said.
BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta refused to accept that the civic body had failed to ensure that the drains were not clogged. “The weather condition was extreme. The city witnessed excessive water logging. However, the civic machinery was in place and worked properly. Mumbai received 320 mm rainfall on Tuesday. At 23 places, over 200 mm rainfall was received,” Mr. Mehta said.
The BMC pressed over 30,000 employees into service to handle the situation. “They removed excessive water (from roads and rail tracks) and provided shelters to the stranded people who could not travel home,” the civic chief said. A total of 229 pumps were used to flush out water, while 425 people stranded on 12 trains were rescued by the fire brigade from four locations in the city. The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) operated 3,146 buses and ferried 30 lakh passengers during the downpour.
The Traffic Police started gearing up from Tuesday night to prepare the city for Wednesday. Officials said that private crane operators were contacted overnight and asked to be ready to tow away vehicles that had been abandoned since Tuesday afternoon.
“We waived off towing charges for people who had abandoned their vehicles and returned to the spots on Wednesday morning to reclaim them. Cranes were kept on standby and roads were cleared in the first half today,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Amitesh Kumar said.
Mr. Kumar added that maximum number of vehicles had been abandoned at Kalanagar, Kherwadi and Vakola on the Western Express Highway and between Dadar and Hindmata on Babasaheb Ambedkar Road.
The Traffic Police also coordinated with the BMC and arranged for trucks to move fallen trees off the streets. A total of 210 trees were reported to have fallen across the city due to the heavy rains.
Officials said with Eid-ul-Zuha approaching on September 2, a lot of vehicles came into the city carrying goats to the Deonar abbattoir, and hence the Eastern Express Highway was cleared on a priority basis.
Elaborating on the work done by the civic staff in providing overnight shelter to the stranded passengers, the BMC Commissioner said, “Assistant commissioners of the respective wards provided 69 night shelters in the vicinity of railway stations where around 5,000 people spent the night.”
Mr. Mehta informed that the city police, NDRF, IMD, HAM Radio, Navy came forward and extended their help while the Coast Guard, Army, Air Force were kept on stand by. The municipal commissioner also appealed to citizens to seek medical assistance in case they experienced symptoms like fever or vomiting.