At least 25 people were killed as torrential monsoon downpour disrupted life in India’s financial capital Mumbai. The weather office warned more rains and a high tide in the nearby Arabian Sea could further soak the drenched city of 20 million.
Most of the deaths were reported during the darks hours before dawn on Sunday, complicating operations to rescue injured people trapped in their rain-flattened homes in some of the city’s most crowded districts.
At least 17 people died when a brick-and-mortar wall built in Chembur district toppled on top of homes while residents were asleep, local media quoted fire department officials as saying.
“It was so sudden that the sleeping residents did not even get an opportunity to shout for help,” a rescuer said and added around 16 people were rescued from the debris of fallen homes.
Those hurt were taken to hospitals for treatment, they said and blamed the accident on a landslide from a local hillock that overlooked homes of the victims.
A similar landslide in the city’s Vikhroli suburb buried a number of shanty homes, killing seven people, officials said and added the 25th rain-related death occurred elsewhere in deluge-hit Mumbai where a teenager died under a collapsed wall.
They reported at least 11 separate incidents of houses collapsing in the sodden Mumbai area in 24 hours to Sunday.
Deaths sadden PM Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief at the deaths and announced financial help for families of those killed and 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,” Modi said in a message.
Monsoon rains began pelting Mumbai on the weekend and soon swamped the city that lacks modern infrastructure to tackle the annual deluge.
“This reminded us of 26, July 2005 when 944 millimeters of rains in just 24 hours brought the city down on its knees,” said Mumbai resident Srikant Rane of the crisis that featured in a Bollywood film four years later.
Television footage showed cars bobbing in muddy water swirling through what was a busy city street.
‘Red Alert’ sounded
The India Meteorological Department in a so-called weather red alert urged people to brace for more rains.
“Mumbai would receive heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places with extremely heavy rainfall at isolated places,” it said in an early Sunday forecast.
Water and electricity supply broke down in parts of the city as maintenance staff could not access the faults because of the torrent.
Rail authorities briefly suspended Mumbai’s lifeline suburban train services as parts of the tracks were buried in rainwater.
The trains normally transport 7.5 million commuters daily but the coronavirus pandemic forced the authorities to scale down the services.
Several inter-state passenger trains were also affected and were stopped outside Mumbai, local media added.
Environmentalists blame destruction of mangroves contributing to the frequent flooding in Mumbai where a dilapidated drainage system, clogged rivers and reclamation of low-lying land add to the city’s monsoon misery.