Rain fury claims 30 lives as fifth thunderstorm in a month batters Mumbai

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Mumbai, July 18 (PTI) At least 30 people died and five others were injured 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.

In the Mahul area in suburban Chembur, 19 people died when a compound wall came crashing down on some houses located on a hillock following a landslide, a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) PRO said on Sunday night. The retaining wall of the Bharatnagar locality collapsed at 1 am. Five people were injured and taken to nearby Rajawadi hospital, as per the BMC.

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.

In another incident, ten hutment-dwellers died as six shanties collapsed after a landslide in suburban Vikhroli at 2.30 am. One person was injured in the incident, the BMC said, adding he was discharged after treatment.

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

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

Heavy rains continued throughout Sunday with the IMD placing Mumbai under a red alert for the day “indicating heavy to very heavy rainfall with extremely heavy rainfall at isolated locations”.

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”.

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.

Later in the day, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast a severe wet spell for the next couple of days and issued an orange alert for Mumbai and the Konkan coast for the next five days. As per the forecast, winds might blow at the speed of 50 to 60 km per hour. Heavy rains are expected on July 23 as well.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray took stock of the preparedness by various government agencies in the evening to tackle any emergency with the IMD forecasting a severe wet spell for the next couple of days.

Thackeray directed the agencies to remain more alert and asked authorities to keep a watch on landslide-prone areas and dilapidated buildings, the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said in a statement.

BMC commissioner IS Chahal, who attended a review meeting on the situation chaired by the CM, said that 27 people had lost their lives in the rain-related incidents 'Last night's rain was over 200 mm and in the compound wall collapse and landslide in two different places 27 people lost their lives,' he said.

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.

Meanwhile, the flooding in the water purification complex at Bhandup affected the water supply in most parts of the metropolis, a BMC official said.

The flooding has affected electrical equipment that controls the pumping and filtration processes there, one of the major sites of water supply to the country's financial capital, following which the BMC asked citizens to boil water before drinking.

Due to heavy overnight rains, Vihar Lake started 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 of 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 Rs two lakh each for the next of kin of the deceased from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund. A sum of Rs 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.

CM Thackeray expressed grief over the loss of lives and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 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 the Chinchpokli area.

The BMC said 43 pumps in six stormwater pumping stations of the civic body were operating continuously to discharge rainwater into the sea and had pumped out 442 crore litre water till evening.

Suburban train services in Mumbai were suspended due to waterlogging 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 24-hour rainfall figure of 944 mm on July 26, 2005. PTI ZA ND KK MR KR BNM DV GK VT NSK NSK

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