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As heavy rain batters Mumbai again, local train, road traffic hit; 24 flights grounded

The Indian Express logo The Indian Express 04-09-2019
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FOR THE fourth time this monsoon, Mumbai was brought to a near standstill by heavy rain on Wednesday with the city’s suburbs receiving an average of 206.6 mm of rain in just six hours, starting 8.30 am.

Forewarned by the Met department of very heavy rainfall, Mumbaikars still found themselves stranded with the heaviest showers beginning after many had reached places of work, leaving roads, suburban rail tracks and entire neighbourhoods inundated.

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Even as flight operations continued at the Chhatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, 24 Indigo flights were grounded after the airline’s staff failed to reach the airport on time owing to heavy rain and traffic disruption.

Indigo, in a statement, said: “Close to 24 flights held up on ground until 23:30 hours. With all ongoing collective efforts, five of our flights have departed between 22:30 and 23:10 hours. As of now, all passengers who have arrived have disembarked from the aircraft and baggage delivery is still in progress.”

By evening, across major commercial hubs, including Nariman Point and Bandra Kurla Complex, residents were left without public transport to return home, with the suburban train service still shut on Central Railway.

The municipality and disaster management systems’ response was quick, unlike previous flood days of July 2-3 and August 3-4. The BMC expeditiously made arrangements to accommodate stranded people in 145 municipal schools. “Also, several schools near major stations such as CSMT, Marine Lines, Mumbai Central, Byculla, Dadar, Andheri, Govandi and Ghatkopar have been kept open to provide space for stranded residents,” said a municipal official.

According to the IMD, the Santacruz observatory recorded 121 mm of rain between 8.30 am and 11.30 am, which increased to 206.6 mm by 2.30 pm. The Colaba observatory recorded 55.6 mm until 2.30 pm.

Data from decentralised weather stations available with the BMC’s disaster management cell showed that between 8 am and 2 pm, the island city received an average of 100.97 mm, the western suburbs received 145.65 mm while the eastern suburbs recorded 131.49 mm of rain.

With the intensity of the downpour increasing around 8.30 am, the government announced a school holiday. However, most students had already made it to their schools by then. As the advisory came late, the government requested principals to send the children home early.

© Photo by Imtiyaz Shaikh /Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Many offices remained shut, low-lying chronic flooding spots such as King’s Circle, Hindmata, Gandhi Market in Matunga, Sion, Kurla West, Andheri, Bandra, Ghatkopar and Kanjurmarg experienced severe flooding. Two arterial roads, the SV Road along the western suburbs and the LBS Marg along the central suburbs, were inundated at multiple locations, disrupting traffic. The Andheri, Malad and Milan subways, which take traffic through underpasses below the railway lines, were completely waterlogged and had to be closed for traffic.

According to BMC’s disaster management department, the situation was worsened by the 4.13-m high tide around 3.30 pm, which stalled the draining out of rainwater through the storm water outfalls.

“We have operated pumping stations for faster receding of rain water. There are 43 pumps in six pumping stations across the city. We operated 24 pumps in all. Each pump has a capacity of dewatering 6,600 litres per second,” said a senior municipal official.

Kurla West was once again the worst-affected area as the Mithi river reached the 3.92-m mark and overflowed around noon. According to the BMC, around 1,300 people from Kranti Nagar and Bamandaya Pada from Kurla West were evacuated with the help of Navy and NDRF personnel, and moved to a shelter homes. “We have made arrangements for food and medical aid, and they will be kept there till the situation becomes normal,” said Manish Valunje, Assistant Municipal Commissioner (L Ward).

He added, “As most parts of Kurla are waterlogged due to high tide, we are taking the help of NGOs and local residents to help stranded people.”

An overflowing Mithi river led several housing colonies in Kurla, the main roads and some internal roads to be completely submerged for hours. Coinciding with the rise in Mithi’s level, tracks at Kurla, Sion and Chunabhatti stations were also submerged.

“After the level of water started rising, power supply was discontinued in many parts of Kurla. Residents living on LBS Marg in Kurla and societies along the banks of the Mithi faced powercuts as supply was disconnected for safety reasons,” said activist Jeetendra Gupta, a Kurla resident. Residents of areas such as Kapadia Nagar and Kamani in Kurla also complained of power outages.

With five sub-stations of the BEST undertaking inundated in Wadala, Matunga and King’s Circle, power outages were reported in these localities. Waterlogged roads also led BEST to divert buses from 26 roads.

Water failed to recede from LBS Road in Kurla even when the rains took a break around 4 pm. With the railway tracks submerged too, services on Central Railway’s main line and harbour line services were suspended.

On Western Railway, services stopped due to waterlogging at Dadar station.

In the last four days, the city has received 399.4 mm of rain, which is more that the average rainfall of September, said BMC officials.

In the last 11 years, the average September rainfall has been 341 mm. On Wednesday only, the city received 350 mm.

Municipal schools near stations like Andheri, Kurla, Bandra, CSMT and Marine Lines have been opened for those stranded. As many as 246 special buses have been pressed into service to help commuters from railway stations.

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