Saturday 24 August 2019

Death toll rises after walls collapse amid India monsoon rains

Mumbai reportedly had its heaviest rainfall in a decade and the second highest in 44 years.

(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

By Rafiq Maqbool, Associated Press

Heavy monsoon rains in western India have caused at least three walls to collapse on to huts and city shanties, killing at least 31 people and injuring dozens of others, officials said.

At least 21 people were killed and more than 60 injured when a 35ft wall demarcating an urban forest collapsed during the night in Mumbai, police said.

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One collapse in Mumbai (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

Rescue teams with sniffer dogs were searching the area afterwards, and crews from the Indian navy fanned out to rescue residents of the waterlogged city, India’s financial and entertainment capital.

Ten deaths were caused by two wall collapses elsewhere in Maharashtra state.

Six migrant construction workers were killed and five injured when a wall collapsed on their tin-roofed huts in Pune, a police spokesman said.

In Thane district, a school wall collapsed and fell on to huts, killing three people and injuring one, said Lakshman Pawar, a local civic official.

A 45-year-old watchman also died when a wall collapsed on him late on Monday, police said.

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Rescuers and onlookers in Mumbai (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

Mumbai police officer Ravinder Howle said said two men died after they got trapped in a submerged car, raising the overall death toll in the state to 32.

The monsoon season in India brings heavy rain from June to September that causes flooding and other damage. Building collapses are common as the rain weakens the foundations of poorly built structures.

On Saturday, another wall collapse in Pune killed 16 people living in a cluster of tin-roofed huts housing migrant workers and their families.

Monday’s rain also flooded roads in Mumbai and covered train tracks. According to Skymet, a private weather forecasting agency, the rainfall was the city’s heaviest in a decade and the second highest in 44 years.

Rain subsided by midday on Tuesday but weather officials predicted more heavy downpours in the next three days.

India’s Central Railway said in a tweet that “nature’s fury” made operating trains a “safety hazard” in some areas. Train services were running only partially on Tuesday after thousands of passengers were stranded overnight. Millions of passengers commute daily on the railways in Mumbai.

The city has witnessed incessant rainfall over the past few days and floodwater has entered homes. A public holiday was declared for Tuesday and the Maharashtra government said only emergency services would be functional.

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted: “People are advised to stay indoors unless there is any emergency.”

TV channels showed videos of submerged cars and water flowing through ground floors of some residential buildings.

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Mumbai Airport (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

A domestic flight skidded off the main runway at Mumbai Airport late on Monday, but flight operations were partially restored on Tuesday.

At least 50 domestic and international flights were diverted and 50 other flights were cancelled.

PA Media

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