Mumbai: Wall collapses in Mumbai and nearby towns, caused by the worst monsoon rains in a single day in 14 years, killed 30 people on Tuesday and disrupted rail and air traffic, prompting officials to shut schools and offices.
Financial markets were open in the city of 18 million touted as a potential rival to the Chinese city of Shanghai, but hampered by poor infrastructure like many other Indian cities.
During every monsoon season, which runs from June to September, India experiences fatal incidents of building and wall collapses as rainfall weakens the foundations of poorly-built structures.
30number of people killed due to heavy rains in Mumbai
Heavy rain brought a wall crashing down on shanties built on a hill slope in Malad, a western suburb of Mumbai, a fire brigade official said, killing 21 people.
Three people died when a school wall collapsed in the city of Kalyan, 42 km north of Mumbai.
In the nearby western city of Pune, six people were killed in a wall collapse on Tuesday, a fire brigade official said, after a similar incident on Saturday killed 15.
Mumbai is looking to turn itself into a global financial hub but large parts of the city struggle to cope with annual monsoon rains, as widespread construction and garbage-clogged drains and waterways make it increasingly vulnerable to chaos.
As much as 375 mm (14.8 inches) of rain fell over 24 hours in some areas of Mumbai, the highest in 14 years, flooding streets and railway tracks, forcing the suspension of some suburban train services which millions of commuters ride to work each day.
About 1,000 people stranded in low-lying areas of the city were rescued by naval personnel using rubber boats after a swollen river began to overflow, municipal authorities said.
As weather officials forecast intermittent heavy showers and isolated extremely heavy rainfall, authorities called a holiday for government offices and educational institutions. “Rain is expected to remain intense even today,” city authorities said on Twitter. “We request you to stay indoors unless there’s an emergency.”
Indian television showed images of flooded homes and people walking through waist deep water, stoking criticism of city authorities. “Every year, the first spell of rainfall throws normal life out of gear in Mumbai. An inquiry is needed into why this happens despite claims of preparations,” said Ajit Pawar, a state opposition leader.
Devendra Fadnavis, chief minister of Maharashtra state which includes Mumbai, said the city’s infrastructure cannot handle excessive rainfall in a short period of time, but new pumping stations would be operational soon.
Many companies asked employees to work from home.
According to Skymet Weather, a private weather-tracking agency, large swathes of Mumbai received around 350 millimetres of rain overnight into Tuesday morning, the most in a decade. The deluge left low-lying areas submerged. “Everything around us is flooded. It’s scary and the problem persists every year despite government promises,” Vishal Agawane, a 32-year-old resident of the Dharavi slum, said.
Train services on Mumbai’s colonial-era rail network, a lifeline for the city’s population, were disrupted due to waterlogged tracks, while motorists were seen pushing cars through flooded streets. Rescuers were sifting through the debris of the wall that collapsed in a slum area in Mumbai’s north, in the hope of finding more survivors trapped under rubble.
The dead included a 10-year-old girl, who was trapped alive under the debris for hours before rescuers pulled out her body in a 12-hour-long unsuccessful operation.
A local rescue volunteer earlier in the day told the NDTV channel that they heard the girl crying in pain and begging for water.
Activists say Mumbai’s susceptibility to floods has worsened in recent years due to a construction boom that is trying to keep up with the city’s swelling population. Much of Mumbai’s mangrove cover, which helps drain water, has been destroyed over the past decade to make way for glitzy high-rises.
According to various studies, anywhere between 40 to 50 percent of the city’s population live in slums, which become a sea of blue tarpaulin every monsoon as residents try to keep out the rain.