It was raining heavily when Hirji Harad, along with his colleagues, left his Kalwa office at around 11pm. It usually takes him around an hour to reach home in Shahapur by local train, but the night of July 21 was nothing less than horrific. It took Harad a good 12 hours to get back home owing to intense rainfall that battered the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) on Wednesday night.
Harad was only one of the 5,700 passengers stranded on the Ambernath-Karjat and Titwala-Kasara routes on Wednesday night. Inclement weather led to water-logging on railway tracks and nearby areas of Umbermali and Kasara stations. This further resulted in disruption of rail traffic between Igatpuri and Khardi. The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) was asked to come to their rescue at 4 am on Thursday and operate 133 buses – 93 from Thane depot and 40 from Nashik depot. By 9 pm on Thursday, trains on only the Ambernath-Karjat route had resumed.
Harad said he and colleagues reached Kalyan at 12.30 am. There were announcements being made about the mudslide and technical failures due to rains but they didn’t know the extent of damage. By 1 am, they reached Titwala station, when they found out about water overflowing on tracks on the Titwala-Kasara section. Harad then sought help from a friend residing in Titwala, where he and his colleagues spent the night. Harad said they returned to Titwala station on Thursday morning but had to wait for another two hours for water to recede. He then walked till Khadavli on tracks like many others. After the level crossing, people hailed vehicles plying on water-logged roads; he finally reached home at 12.30 pm.
Ramesh Patole, a BEST employee, too had an arduous night. A resident of Vasind, he reached Titwala station at 12.45 am on Thursday. “There were many people who were clueless and the station master wasn’t there for help. There was no arrangement of water or a place to sit,” said Patole.
Patole spent the night on the platform like many others. A few of them requested the railway police to ask the station master to arrange for a train to stable on the platform for people to rest, which didn’t happen. “Then a train for Kalyan departed from Titwala, reaching at 4.45 am. From there, I took a state transport bus to Jalgaon,” said Patole, who finally reached home at 7 am.
The Central Railway claimed it had opened help desks at Kalyan, Kasara, Igatpuri and Lonavala for stranded passengers. Catering arrangements like tea, coffee and snacks were arranged at stations for passengers of regulated trains. Catering stalls were also opened for them.