2005 again: For once, all agencies unite to rescue; 1,050 rescued from Mahalaxmi Express
Photo by NAVY and FPJ

Mumbai: It was the night of July 26, and history repeated itself 14 years after, with thousands stranded in trains, at petrol pumps and on the roads. This time, however, the stranded were mainly in Thane district. The only difference between the events of 2005 and 2019 is, for the first time, a multi-agency effort was successfully undertaken to rescue 1,500-2,000 people stranded across the suburbs. Among the rescuers were teams from the Indian Air Force, Army, Navy, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), fire brigade, Maharashtra Police, local agencies and volunteers. All 1,050 passengers, including nine pregnant women on board the Kolhapur-bound Mahalaxmi Express, were rescued on Saturday in a multi-agency operation nearly 17 hours after the train was stranded near Vangani in Thane district due to flooding on tracks following heavy rains. Central Railway (CR) officials said all the passengers, including nine pregnant women, were rescued by 3 pm.

Between 10 and 11 pm on Friday night, local trains on Central Railway were running on the dot but by midnight, the scenario at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus had changed. Commuters said announcements were being made but these were hard to understand but importantly, the public was informed about waterlogging beyond Kalyan. Unfortunately, however, some trains were cancelled. The few stranded on the platform had to fend for themselves. Some commuters decided to remain on the platform but were asked to proceed to the main terminus lobby.

“We waited there till 2.30am and I called the office tempo, they picked me up,” said Pramod Kumar, a journalist. He travelled all the way to Dombivli in the tempo, and has been forced to do so several times this monsoon. Like several others, Pramod reached home on Saturday morning. There were reports of three feet of water at Badlapur station. Many living beyond Kalyan, who were on trains late at night, had to find another way to reach home from Kalyan.

Thane district: The Indian Air Force on Saturday launched a rescue operation to airlift more than 100 people stuck in different areas of Thane district in Maharashtra due to flash floods triggered by heavy rains, an official said. A helicopter-borne team of the Indian Air Force rescued on Saturday nine persons stranded on a rooftop in neighbouring Thane district which is being lashed by heavy rains. A defence spokesperson said that nine persons were stranded on the terrace of a building close to the Ulhas river near Kalyan.

At least 100 people were stranded on the terrace of a petrol pump in Badlapur town, around 65km from Mumbai, while another 45 people were stuck at a private resort in Shahad, 46km away, the state disaster control room official said. Heavy rains since Friday night caused the Ulhas river in the district to overflow, with water gushing onto roads in Badlapur and inundating many areas. This caused the Mahalaxmi Express to be marooned.

In Konkan: In the meanwhile, a boulder fell on the road in Parshuram Ghat on Saturday afternoon, bringing traffic to a halt. The boulder fell after continuous heavy rains from Friday. After the boulder fell, soil from the ghats began to fall on the road, triggering fears of a landslide. So the area had to be closed to traffic. The public works department started to clear the way. In a previous incident, around July 15-16, the soil had got loose causing boulders to fall.

Incessant rains have lashed Konkan and the Mumbai-Goa national highway in Maharashtra has been shut for traffic since Saturday morning due to the Jagbudi river crossing the danger mark following heavy rains, police said.

The IMD said that the Colaba observatory recorded 19.1mm rain in the 24 hours ending 8.30am on Friday, while the Santacruz weather station recorded 44mm rainfall in that period. The last two days of rainfall in Mumbai caused waterlogging in several parts of the city, including Sion, Matunga, Mahim, Andheri, Malad and Dahisar, which led to traffic snarls at several major junctions.


Badlapur TC appeals to people to extend a helping hand

Badlapur ticket checker Sunil Gupta along with other railway staff was making announcements on station appealing to people to

come forward and extend a helping hand to stranded passengers by giving clothes, food items. Gupta said although the local social help groups are supporting railways, we want more citizens to actively come forward, especially the ones who stay near railway stations. "Rescue teams are helping passengers of Maha-laxmi express. But since these passengers have to venture into inundated rain water to reach the main road, their clothes got completely wet. So we appealed to citizens to give some clothes.”

Diesel engine sent to pull back train, returns due to waterlogging

After the situation worsened, Central railway has planned to pull back the Mahalaxmi express with a diesel engine up to Badlapur station. However, the plan flopped. "The diesel engine brought from Kalyan depot to pull back the Express train was stuck in rainwater some five km beyond Badlapur station. Due to extreme water logging, the engine was sent back," said T K Gopinathan, Badlapur railway station master.

First aid, food & water provided at station

To help distressed passengers passengers of Mahalaxmi express who were stranded at Badlapur station, a team of doctors from local clinics and hospitals rushed to the railway stations to provide medical assistance. Tagging along for more help were members of various social help groups. Many locals also made it to the railway station with packets of food, milk and clothes. Groups were giving passengers tea, biscuits and water to relieve them of stress.


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