Heavy monsoon rains lash Mumbai

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Heavy monsoon rains lash Mumbai

Heavy monsoon rains disrupted rail and air traffic in Bombay and floods snarled up roads on Tuesday, and weather officials said the heavy rains and winds were likely to continue for another 24 hours.

Flights at Bombay's domestic airport were delayed due to poor visibility and at least two Indian Airlines flights from Mangalore and New Delhi were diverted to Ahmedabad in the neighbouring Gujarat, a spokesman for the state carrier said.

"The airport's open and there are no official cancellations yet, but several flights have been delayed because of the heavy rain," a domestic airport spokeswoman said.

A railway spokesman said all train services to the suburbs had been suspended because tracks were flooded. Thousands of people were stranded at stations, while many returned to their offices, wading through knee-high water in some places.

"Trains are stranded on the flooded tracks," said Shailendra Kumar, spokesman for the Western Railway. "We don't know for sure how long will it take to resume normal services."

Central Railway services were also suspended.

Many offices closed early or allowed employees to return home early, but traffic on flooded roads was slow to move.

"There is a massive traffic jam and traffic's just inching along," said Sanjay Pillai, who was in a car on his way to the Hilton Towers hotel in south Bombay. "It took me 45 minutes just to get from Worli to Mahalakshmi, just a kilometre's distance."

Telephone lines and mobile networks were also struggling.

A weather official said the rains were due to a low pressure area over the Bay of Bengal.

"Heavy rains with strong winds are likely to continue in Maharahstra state in the next 24 hours," he said.

The Santacruz observatory of the Indian Meteorological Department recorded 2 cm of rainfall in the six hours from 0830 a.m. on Tuesday.
 
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Police urged millions of Bombay residents to stay off the streets as heavy rains brought more flooding to India's financial hub on Sunday and relief officials said the death toll in the region could reach 1,000.

Dead bodies and carcasses of animals were still strewn across parts of Bombay and its suburbs from last week's flooding, raising fears of disease, TV and officials said.

"I hope there is no epidemic," Maharashtra relief commissioner Krishna Vatsa said.

The monsoon rains in the region have been the heaviest for almost a century and, on Sunday, western India was drenched again.

"We are appealing to people not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary," Police Commissioner A.N. Roy told Reuters.

Officials said fatalities in Maharashtra, including Bombay, were rising as more bodies were dug out from villages flattened by landslides south of Bombay.

In Raigarh district, 150 km south of Bombay, about 200 are dead or missing. At least 910 confirmed deaths have been reported in the state, police said.

"The death toll in Raigarh is likely to go up by another 100 or so because more dead bodies are coming up. It (the total) may touch around 1,000, including about 400 deaths in Bombay," said Vatsa.

"It's raining and this will hamper the relief distribution and search operations."

NEGLECT

Industry officials said the damage bill would run to billions of rupees in Bombay, headquarters to India's biggest firms, following the flooding.

"One understands the rains are unprecedented but, having said that, the fact is that years of neglect of infrastructure has showed up," said Vivek Bharati, adviser to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

"Something really needs to be done about it."

Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said Sunday's rains had raised fears of new landslides in and around the city.

"We are trying to shift people from danger areas so that no tragedy occurs again," Deshmukh said on NDTV television, adding authorities had asked the army to be on standby.

Nearly 70 people were killed in Bombay's northern suburb of Andheri last week after they were trapped under a huge mound of mud and rocks which flattened dozens of shanties on hillsides.

PROTESTS

In Bombay alone, hundreds have died in the city of over 15 million since Tuesday due to landslides, drowning, electrocution in flooded streets and even by suffocating in their cars as they waited out the rains for many hours.

There have been angry protests in several areas of the city where thousands have been without electricity and drinking water supplies since flooding started last Tuesday.

"The infrastructure in the city has collapsed but people have a very short memory. We seem to forget and forgive and don't come up with a constructive plan," said Josy John, a Bombay resident.

"Already roads are in a bad shape and the situation is going to worsen," said John, who spent a couple of days in his office following traffic disruptions due to the floods.

Reliance Energy, which supplies power to parts of Bombay, said the flooding had damaged some transformers and feeders.

Long-distance trains on some routes have been cancelled for a week, leaving thousands stranded at railway stations, and flights to and from Bombay airport, India's busiest, have been delayed as planes could not take off or land for about nine hours on Sunday.

"Flights have started now. The visibility is clear," said Air India spokesman Jitendra Bhargava.

Airline officials said there was a huge backlog of pending flights and waiting passengers. "There is tremendous pressure on airlines," Indian Airlines spokesman M. Swaminathan said.

Monsoon flooding kills hundreds every year in India and covers huge swathes of land in the densely-populated nation, home to hundreds of rivers.
 

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