The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mumbai sinks, India shivers

Mumbai, July 27: Mumbai went under water today ' and most of India got drenched.

A frisson of anxiety coursed through the veins of the country as torrential rain plunged the financial capital into a black hole, yanking away at the snap of fingers all the modern-day lifelines that the metropolis has come to take for granted.

Over a 21-hour burst, Santa Cruz in northwestern Mumbai clocked as much as 944.2 mm of rainfall ' the highest since 1974. The figure translates to three feet of water ' capable of drowning a child 'at a particular point at a given time.

Anything above 65 mm is considered high rainfall. To put Mumbai’s 944-mark in perspective, the sharpest single-day shower recorded since 1960 in Calcutta ' the veteran of many a waterlogging war 'was 370 mm in 1978.

Watching a waterworld unfold on television screens, the rest of the country soon realised that the flood in Mumbai had seeped into their drawing rooms and office cubicles in more ways than one.

The cash carriers in the age of the new economy ' automated teller machines (ATMs) ' were the first to dispense that sinking feeling. ATMs of many banks with headquarters in Mumbai, a considerable number is based there, went on the blink in several parts of the country.

Hectic efforts are on to restore the links by tomorrow afternoon, officials said. But all banks and RBI offices in Mumbai will be closed tomorrow as the government has declared a holiday to cope with the dislocation.

Communication links were also snapped, within and without Mumbai, forcing thousands to sleep over in offices, stay stuck in cars or walk for miles. Several children were also marooned in schools through the night.

Cellphones ' the indispensable appendage without which life cannot go on in most of India ' dealt another crippling blow. Most networks simply fell silent, others could not cope with the stampede of calls.

Nemesis struck in another form also 'without electricity, there was no way the power towers on cellphones could be replenished.

“In Bandra and dying.” Text messages such as these started squeezing their way through in the afternoon, carrying harrowing tales of the night spent in cramped cubicles and returning home from work after over 30 hours.

Alex Anthony was among the luckier commuters ' he managed to reach home after 14 hours, walking on rail tracks and wading through chest-deep water.

“It was like a river outside the station,” he said. “Firemen tied ropes to lamp-posts and a chain of people held onto them to get through the water.”

The rain took a bigger toll, too. Over 200 are feared to have died in the flood and landslides in the whole of Maharashtra. In Mumbai alone, the casualty figure could be around 83.

The toll could climb in the state. Rescue teams have reached Jui, a village 150 km south of Mumbai, and begun digging for survivors and bodies after a landslide flattened or buried more than 30 houses. Officials said 150 people might have been caught in the avalanche of mud.

The situation has started improving in some areas but meteorologists have forecast heavy rains and high winds for another 48 hours.

Chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh estimated the total damage to be over Rs 500 crore. Over 5,000 personnel from all three defence wings have been pressed into relief and rescue operations.

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