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Streets reveal what rain reading hides

Ananya Ray, standing in knee-deep water at Syed Amir Ali Avenue around 6pm on Wednesday, would have thought she was in a different city if someone told her that Calcutta had received 6.4mm of rain over three hours.

“I have been here for 20 minutes and haven’t found a taxi or an auto. This must have been the heaviest rain of the season,” said the 32-year-old from Baguiati.

Blame the difference between reality and what the rain gauge measured on the trend of skewed showers this monsoon. The anomaly left Mominpur near Alipore, where the regional meteorological centre is located, with an afternoon rain reading of 3.5mm even as most other neighbourhoods from Ballygunge to Belgachhia received a dunking.

According to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, Belgachhia recorded 80mm of rain over three hours starting 3pm, Ballygunge, Palmer Bazar and Dhapa got 64mm and Ultadanga had 53mm. The civic body calculates rainfall through its pumping stations that drain out water.

“Thunderclouds of different heights had formed in different parts of the city. That is why the amount of rainfall varied,” said a senior official of the India Meteorological Department, Calcutta.

More than 150 pumps ran for over five hours across the city but couldn’t spare citizens the trouble of wading through submerged streets and the struggle to find transport.

Portions of carriageways slanting towards the pavements remained flooded long after the rain had stopped, forcing people returning from office to stand in the water and wait for buses that were few and infrequent and taxis which played hard to get as usual.

“It’s been 20 minutes and still no taxi ready to take me home. I had to wait over 30 minutes in the rain for a taxi to Alipore yesterday as well. After being refused by at least five of them, I agreed to pay Rs 50 extra. Today, three taxis have refused me already,” Swetannita Chakraborty, a research associate with a stem cell preservation centre in Ballygunge, said around 7.30pm.

Supratim Sirkar, a shipping company executive who lives near Deshapriya Park, said not a single taxi he had approached was willing to go anywhere without being paid more than the metered fare. “My office is on Camac Street. I have reached Minto Park (around a kilometre away) looking for a taxi.”

Many commuters were spotted standing on stone slabs used by hawkers who had left for the day to avoid the accumulated rainwater.

Police said traffic was the slowest along Central Avenue, Congress Exhibition Road, Syed Amir Ali Avenue and both flanks of the Park Circus-EM Bypass connector.

Snarls near Ballygunge Phari left vehicles stranded at the crossing for more than 15 minutes on an average. Esplanade was choked as well, slush on the pavement along parts of JL Nehru Road forcing pedestrians to spill over onto the carriageway. The Patipukur underpass, the slip road off VIP Road near Haldiram, portions of Rajarhat Main Road leading to Chinar Park and parts of the Baguiati neighbourhood were submerged till evening.

The weather office has forecast heavy rain at least until Friday as the weather system causing showers is still active.

“A low-pressure area on the Bay of Bengal and adjoining Bangladesh is drawing moisture to land from the sea. So even if there is a lull after a spell of rain, clouds build up again to trigger fresh showers,” said G.C. Debnath, director at IMD, Calcutta.