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Flights, trains and minister hit by rain, Mumbaikar keeps head above water

Mumbai, June 30: For once the people’s representative was truly among his people — but wet and hardly content.

Torrential rain sent a Mumbai suburb under water, forced a minister out of his flooded home and left him on the street with his neighbours as nature the great leveller swamped the country’s commercial capital today.

A rescue team arrived in less than 15 minutes to whisk Chandrakant Handore and his family to safety, but not before the Maharashtra social justice minister, rarely seen among his electors, became one with them.

“Chandrakant Handore’s house in suburban Chembur was submerged besides several ground-floor flats because of torrential rain. I must admit there is not much that can be done overnight in such a situation,” said city civic chief Jairaj Phatak.

South and central Mumbai recorded 158.5mm of rainfall while the suburbs received 603.3mm in the 12 hours since 2.30 at night.

Water also entered actor Amitabh Bachchan’s bungalow Prateeksha, where his son Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai tied the knot on April 18.

As the city struggled to stay afloat, an anxious chief minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, rang up top officials from Seattle in the US asking them to avoid a repeat of 2005, when a week-long deluge killed hundreds and brought the city to a halt.

Civic authorities warned people not to venture out of homes between 10am and 5pm as the downpour was expected to coincide with the forecast of high tide in the afternoon. Power cuts were reported from several suburbs.

The downpour also left the Mumbai airport runway flooded. “Visibility was poor due to heavy rains and flight operations were suspended from 11.55am to 1.05pm. This resulted in 36 cancellations and 27 diversions, disrupting flight schedules and leading to a backlog,” Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) spokesperson Manish Kalghatgi told The Telegraph.

While full-fare airlines provided meals and water to stranded passengers, those flying with low-cost airlines were left to fend for themselves.

“As a humanitarian gesture, MIAL distributed 2,000 packed meals to stranded passengers,” Kalghatgi said.

From Calcutta, flights for Mumbai stopped taking off around 3.45pm, while arrivals from Mumbai stopped around 5, officials at Calcutta airport said. At least 12 flights to and from Mumbai were cancelled.

The Mumbai Mail via Allahabad was rescheduled to leave Howrah at 12 midnight instead of 10pm, an Eastern Railway official said.

“To avoid getting stuck, I had left much earlier than necessary and there were hordes of people like me,” said Parag Mitra, a banker, who was scheduled to fly back to Calcutta.

“These things are bound to happen with such poor infrastructure. But it’s a shame that the airport at the commercial capital of the country collapses every time during the monsoons,” said co-passenger Alim Lakdawala.

Local train services, the transport lifeline of the crowded city, were suspended in many areas as water flooded the tracks. Most outstation trains were delayed.

Road traffic had to be diverted after floods were reported in 17 areas. Police said five persons died in the rains and three were injured in separate cases of electrocution.

Over 1,500 residents in areas adjoining the domestic airport in Kurla were shifted after the Mithi river flooded shanties.

The weather office predicted more heavy rain over the next 24 hours.

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