Rain fury claims 25 lives as fifth thunderstorm in a month batters Mumbai

  • India Meteorological Department has issued a red alert for Mumbai in the backdrop of heavy rains
  • Water logging and traffic disruptions pestered Mumbai on Sunday

First Published18 Jul 2021
Commuters wade through a waterlogged street as heavy rain continues in Mumbai's Dadar area.
Commuters wade through a waterlogged street as heavy rain continues in Mumbai’s Dadar area.

Twenty five people died in rain-related incidents as incessant heavy downpour overnight during a major thunderstorm pummeled Mumbai, causing severe water logging and traffic disruptions in the financial capital on Sunday, officials said.

The Western Railway and Central Railway briefly suspended suburban train services in Mumbai after the heavy rains, and many long distance trains were terminated or regulated at various stations, officials said.

Seventeen people died as a compound wall came crashing down on some houses located on a hillock after a landslide, a fire official said. The retaining wall of the Bharatnagar locality in Mumbai's Mahul area collapsed at 1 am, the official said. Seven people were injured and taken to nearby Rajawadi hospital, he added.

A civic activist said this is among the 257 hutments that have come up on hillocks in the city. In the last 29 years, 290 people in such localities have been killed in landslides and collapses during monsoon, he added.

Seven hutment dwellers died as six shanties collapsed after a landslide in Mumbai's Vikhroli suburb at 2.30 am, a civic official said. Two persons were injured and were sent to a nearby hospital, he added.

A 16-year-old boy died after a forest department compound wall collapsed in suburban Bhandup, an official said.

Mumbai recorded over 250 mm of rain in just three hours (between midnight and 3am), touching 305 mm by 7 am on Sunday, a meteorologist said.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said Mumbai was placed under a red alert, “indicating heavy to very heavy rainfall with extremely heavy rainfall at isolated locations” for the rest of the day. Images from a doppler radar showed that the thunderstorm had a cloud top height of nearly 18 km (around 60,000 feet), the IMD said.

“To put in other words, the height/vertical extent of this monster thunderstorm is approximately twice that of Mount Everest!,” tweeted meteorologist Akshay Deoras.

“Such thunderstorms are definitely uncommon for Mumbai or the west coast during an active phase of the monsoon and in a month like July. The cloud top height of this monster thunderstorm is definitely comparable to the one that produced rains on 26 July 2005,” he said.

“Thunderstorms have already been observed on the following five days in this month: On July 9, 11, 12, 16 and 17,” said Deoras, a PhD student in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom.

Minister of state for Railways Raosaheb Danve said he will travel by a local train from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) in Mumbai to Kalyan in Thane district to review monsoon-related works carried out by the railways.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation asked citizens to boil water before drinking as heavy rains over the last two days had led to flooding in the water purification complex at Bhandup.

The flooding has affected electrical equipment that control the pumping and filtration processes there, one of the major sites of water supply to the country's financial capital, he said. The inundation at the complex has affected water supply in most parts of the metropolis, the official added.

Meanwhile, the heavy overnight rains led to Vihar Lake overflowing on Sunday morning, a civic official said. A BMC statement said the lake, with a storage capacity of 27,698 million litres, is the smallest of the water bodies that are part of the supply mechanism to the metropolis.

Built in 1859, the lake supplies 90 million litres water per day, the civic body said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed anguish at the loss of lives caused by wall collapse incidents in Mumbai.

His office also announced two lakh each for the next of kin of the deceased from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund. A sum of 50,000 would be given to the injured.

"Saddened by the loss of lives due to wall collapses in Chembur and Vikhroli in Mumbai. In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the bereaved families. Praying that those who are injured have a speedy recovery," Modi said.

President Ram Nath Kovind also expressed grief over the rain-related deaths in Mumbai. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray expressed grief over the loss of lives and announced an ex-gratia of 5 lakh for the kin of each of the victims.

A viral video showed a two-wheeler being dragged in water in an inundated street in Chinchpokli area.

The BMC said 43 pumps in six storm water pumping stations of the civic body were operating continuously to discharge rain water into the sea and have so far pumped out 442 crore litre water.

Suburban train services in Mumbai were suspended due to water logging on the tracks due to the overnight heavy downpour, railway officials said, adding the services were resumed in the morning.

Before the pandemic, both the Central Railway and Western Railway used to ferry over 75 lakh commuters a day in over 3,000 suburban train services, which are now operated only for emergency services staff and government employees.

The rain fury reminded some Mumbaikars of the the 24-hour rainfall figure of 944 mm on July 26, 2005. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a red alert for Mumbai in the backdrop of heavy rains, a BMC official said.

Alerts by the IMD are colour-coded from green to red. A 'green' alert stands for 'no warning': no action needs to be taken by the authorities, and the forecast is of light to moderate rain. A 'red' alert stands for "warning", and asks authorities to "take action". An ‘orange’ alert indicates that the authorities are expected to “be prepared”. Mumbai would receive “heavy to very heavy” rainfall at a few places with extremely heavy rainfall at isolated places, the IMD said.

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