Heavy rains in Mumbai and adjoining areas caused flooding in several parts of the city affecting air and rail traffic on Saturday, with the Mahalaxmi Express getting stuck on waterlogged tracks in Thane district with 1,000 passengers, prompting the authorities to launch a multi-agency rescue operation.
In an unprecedented measure, the Maharashtra government requested defence officials to arrange airlift of the stranded passengers of the 17412 Mahalaxmi Express.
NDRF spokesperson Sachidanand Gawde said, "Of the total 1,000 passengers, we have so far rescued over 500. They are being taken to a safe place about 1.5 kms from the site. Food, water and medical facilities have been arranged for the stranded passengers." The Chief Minister's Officer said that among the 500 rescued passengers are nine pregnant women.
Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai spoke to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and assured him all support in rescue operation. Abhay Yawalkar, the director of the Disaster Management unit of the Maharashtra government, wrote to the air command of NDRF, Air Force and Navy to do the necessary operation "including airlift of passengers".
In the 24 hours ending 8 am on Saturday, the Mumbai city received 97.3 mm rainfall, while its eastern and western suburbs were lashed by 163 mm and 132 mm rainfall during the period, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said. "Following the incessant rains over the last 24 hours in Mumbai & adjoining areas, Eight Flood rescue teams from #IndianNavy incl three Diving teams have been mobilised with rescue material, Inflatable boats and life jackets," the navy tweeted.
A Seaking Helicopter has also been launched with divers equipped with auto inflatable craft for deployment in the area as advance assessment party, it said. The incessant rains also led to cancellation of 11 flights and diversion of nine from the Mumbai airport. Overnight downpours caused havoc in adjoining Thane district also, where the Mahalaxmi Express got stuck near Badlapur due to flooded tracks.
The train left Mumbai for Kolhapur on Friday night, but could not travel beyond Chamtoli where it is stranded since the early hours of Saturday, an official said. "Due to a raging Ulhas river, the Mahalaxmi Express train got stuck at Chamtoli within the limits of Badlapur due to flooded tracks. The passengers were safe, but the only concern is rise in water level on the tracks," Resident Deputy Collector (Thane) Shivaji Patil said. There is no report of any casualty due to the rains in the district, he said.
Maharashtra government spokesperson Brajesh Singh said eight NDRF boats have been deployed. Houses in several villages, including Varap, Kamba, Mharal on the Kalyan Murbad Road near Kalyan are submerged and the district administration has rushed one NDRF team for rescue operation, an official said.
"The rescue work was underway and at least 100 people have been shifted to safer places from low-lying areas," he added. While Thane city recorded 160 mm rainfall till 8 am Saturday, Murbad recorded 332 mm, while Kalyan, Ulhasnagar and Amberanth recorded over 200 mm of rainfall each , an official release from the district collectorate said.
Meanwhile, in Mumbai, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) Colaba weather station recorded 90 mm rainfall, while the Santacruz observatory registered 219 mm rainfall in the 24 hours till 8 am on Saturday. In a tweet, Deputy Director General of the IMD (Mumbai), K S Hosalikar, said that heavy rains will continue in Mumbai suburbs.
According to civic officials, incessant rains since Friday night resulted in waterlogging in several parts of Mumbai and affected traffic in suburbs such as Juhu Tara Road, Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road, several stretches of SV Road and on the parts of Western Express Highway. School Education Minister Ashish Shelar tweeted, "Reviewed heavy rainfall situation at all parts of state, considering local rainfall situation concerned Headmaster/principal can take decision for declaring holiday at their level for Saturday."
The downpours affected air services also leading to cancellation of 11 flights and diversion of nine incoming aircraft to nearby airports on Saturday, an official said. The operations at the city airport, however, are now normal, the official said. The cancelled flights include seven departures and four arrivals.
"As many as 11 flights of various airlines are cancelled for today. These include seven departures and four arrivals. In addition to this, nine flights which were scheduled to arrive in Mumbai have been diverted to other nearby airports due to rains and other issues," the official said.
The Central Railway said that its suburban services between Kalyan and CSMT and also on the Harbour line are not affected much. CR chief spokesperson Sunil Udasi said that heavy rainfall and overflowing Ulhas river resulted in waterlogging at Ambernath, due to which a few trains have been short- terminated or cancelled.
"11028 Chennai-Mumbai Mail arriving CSMT and 11020 Bhubaneshwar-Mumbai Konark Express have been diverted while 22149 Ernakulam-Pune has been short terminated at Panvel," he said in a statement. The BMC has warned people about possible thunderstorms accompanied by lightning during the day.