The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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16 Hours, a horror film

Calcutta, July 27: What started out as “just a funny joke” turned out to be “an absolute nightmare” for STAR India CEO Peter Mukerjea ' he was stranded on Mumbai roads for a staggering 16 hours between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.

“You only get to see things like this in a horror movie ' it was quite horrible,” he said, when contacted this evening. “I still can’t believe I am home.”

On his way to the domestic airport to catch a flight, Mukerjea was stopped in his tracks on the Western Express Highway.

“I thought it was a regular traffic jam which would ease out any minute,” he recalls. “After four to five hours, it was not a joke anymore. The phone was still working and I got to know that no flights were leaving town. So I headed back home.”

Then, the water levels rose and the horror grew as Mukerjea sat in his car with his wife and the driver.

“Watching the number plates of the cars in front of us, we realised that the water level was rising all the time and the rains just refused to stop. Then the radio went off, the cellphone lines died and the air-conditioning stopped. It was 10 in the night, pitch dark and we just sat there. Despite my car being higher than the others, water started creeping in. It was quite scary.”

Among Mukerjea’s fellow stranded were elderly women, children and a pregnant woman. “We are fit people, but they were in such a mess and imagine 12 hours sitting in the same position. You can’t even contact your friends and family.... And there was no sign of any assistance.”

Finally, realising that the traffic was not going to move and there would be no help from the civic authorities, he, like the others around him, started to walk back home.

“I had to walk around 10 km through dirty gutter water. When I called up a police friend to find out why they couldn’t do anything, all he said was that there was no co-ordinating agency among police, the fire brigade and other rescue organisations.

“Isn’t it the chief minister’s job to take some action when something like this happens'” he wonders.

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