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Rain pain for fans in dash to catch Messi

A girl makes her way through a submerged Dalhousie street at 8pm on Tuesday like a striker dribbling across a wall of defenders. Picture Bishwarup Dutta

The monsoon on Tuesday evening did to Lionel Messi fans in Calcutta what defenders do to the Argentine genius: frustrate.

Thousands of football enthusiasts hurrying home to catch Messi in action were stuck in rain-induced traffic jams as a torrential downpour between 6pm and 8.30pm submerged large swathes of the city, especially the thoroughfares. The showers continued beyond 8.30pm but the damage was done in the first one-and-a-half hours as almost 90mm of rain fell during that period.

The city has received almost 170mm of rain since Monday midnight.

The Prince Anwar Shah Road connector, the Park Circus-Science City connector, SP Mukherjee Road, Sarat Bose Road, Southern Avenue, parts of Kasba in the south reeled under ankle-deep water. In north and central Calcutta, parts of Central Avenue, Amherst Street, Thanthania and Sukeas Street went under.

For the fans, the challenge was to negotiate through waterlogged streets, fallen trees and stubborn snarls to reach home before the start of the pre-quarterfinal match between Argentina and Switzerland at 9.30pm.

As minutes trickled by, the frustration showed on die-hard Argentina and LM10 devotee Harsh Gupta, 37, stuck on a Dum Dum road because of a tree downed by the downpour. “No vehicle moved an inch for what seemed like hours. I opened the car door and got drenched in frustration,” said the businessman from Theatre Road around 8pm.

Around 8.30pm, a single lane was cleared and he could squeeze his Maruti Alto through. “I was thanking my lucky stars at that moment that I wasn’t driving a larger car,” said Harsh, who owns a Toyota Fortuner and a Tata Safari as well.

Luck didn’t smile on Abhishek Banerjee, who landed at the Calcutta airport around 8pm and started for his Ajaynagar home in an office car 15 minutes later. He hasn’t moved beyond Science City at 9.37pm.

Netherlands loyalist but Messi fan Avirup Mukherjee went through another kind of toil on his way to his Selimpore home from office. He had to “walk my two-wheeler for nearly two hours” after the engine got shot in the water on the Prince Anwar Shah Road connector.

Most commuters had to depend on the city’s depleting fleet of buses as autorickshaws and taxis vanished from the roads in a matter of minutes after water began to rise on the roads.

South Calcutta suffered because the Ballygunge drainage pumping station did not work for nearly an hour-and-a-half when it rained the hardest. “Power supply to the station tripped at 6.30pm. It took at least 90 minutes to restore power,” said a senior official of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC). “None of the 11 pumps there worked during that period.”

Mayor Sovan Chatterjee was at the CMC headquarters at 9pm, supervising the drainage operations. “So many places are under water. A pumping station could not work for more than an hour because of a power outage.”

A CESC official said: “There was no fault on our part. There may have been a fault inside the station.”

The weather office predicts heavy rainfall for the next two to three days as satellite pictures showed a cyclonic circulation over Bay of Bengal intensifying into a low-pressure area. Met officials said rainfall, heavy to moderate, would continue till Friday.

“We expect good rain for the next two to three days,” said G.C. Debnath, director of the India Meteorological Department in Calcutta.


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