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'We have never seen so much water'

By Sheela Bhatt
July 26, 2005 22:32 IST
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"I have never seen such ferocious rain," says Dr Dimple Patra, a resident of Matunga in central Mumbai.

Dr Patra, like thousands of parents in the city, is worried that her 5-year-old child had not returned from school though the school management had reassured her that the school bus was caught in a traffic jam caused by a fallen tree.

In other parts of the city, children stranded in school buses trapped in knee deep water gingerly alighted and made their way home, even as their anxious parents searched for them on the streets. On the L B S Marg, a busy thoroughfare in north Mumbai, a school bus was marooned by rising rain water, compelling a local FM radio station to SOS the police for help.

The plight of marooned school children became a metaphor for a city brought to its knees by torrential rain.

In one apartment block in Andheri, northwest Mumbai, senior citizens were evacuated to a higher floor after rain water rushed into their ground floor apartments.

Most of the city and its suburbs had no electricity -- including the headquarters in north central Mumbai. Suburban train services, the city's lifeline, were cancelled. Flights too were affected.

Vilas Vaidya, chief officer, disaster management, at the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, told that high tides in the sea off the city compounded the problem. municipal officials shut off drains leading out of the city to stop incoming sea water from adding to the problem.

Bharati Mathiya, a resident of the northeastern suburb of Ghatkopar, told, "Our building has been flooded right up to the first floor. We have never seen so much waterÂ… It is a scary sight." Mathiya has it easier than her maidservant Gauri who cannot return home because the hut she lives in has been washed away.

The army may be called in to help marooned citizens, according to unconfirmed reports.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has called an emergency meeting to address the situation.

The city's nightmare is not over yet. Heavy to very heavy rain has been forecast for the next 24 hours in Mumbai.

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Sheela Bhatt