| A man carries the body of his three-year-old nephew Shaktivel, killed in a slum stampede, from a morgue in Mumbai on Friday. (Reuters)
• 100 bodies found floating in Badlapur in Thane
• Overflowing Barvi dam has washed out two suburbs
• Cyclone is heading towards the city
• Women in the secretariat and other government offices asked to leave early
Mumbai, July 29: After the rain rage, rumours.
Mumbai’s overburdened police are battling an invisible foe that is visiting a city which is getting back on its feet in wave after wave.
Yesterday, the rumour of a tsunami hitting Mumbai’s suburbs close to the waterfront killed 18 and injured 27 in a stampede, but the deaths that added to the climbing toll from the rain and deluge-induced disasters were not enough to prevent repeats.
A harried police commissioner Anami Roy, who rushed to the Juhu area to pacify panicky slum-dwellers, used all available public information sources to dispel the rumours.
Text messages like “Rumours about cyclone are false and baseless. I appeal to all not to believe such rumours. Police commissioner, Mumbai” were dispatched by state-owned Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd on its cellular network.
Thane police commissioner D. Sivanandhan denied another on the discovery of about 100 corpses floating in Badlapur, a suburb of Thane district.
“It is a baseless rumour. We did recover 18 bodies in Badlapur which is badly affected by the flood waters. But the total death toll in Thane district till this morning is 134,” he said.
Shaken by the stampede in Juhu late on Thursday night, the Mumbai police today pinned the blame for circulating the tsunami and dam-burst rumours on a dance bar owner from suburban Andheri, according to PTI.
The rumours had triggered a stampede in the Nehru Nagar slums at Santa Cruz. Amitabh Gupta, the deputy commissioner of police, said: “We had detained 11 for interrogation. But, we have arrested three under four sections, including culpable homicide not amounting to murder.”
That the police were taking rumour mongering as a serious threat became apparent from their slapping this charge, apart from invoking four other sections, including 505 (1)(b) (making public mischief with intent to cause fear or alarm), and 183 (unlawful assembly).
After the stampede, Roy directed several police vehicles fitted with public address systems to announce in vulnerable slum pockets that people should not believe rumours.
Despite the police efforts, the rumour about an impending cyclone resulted in several government offices being closed before time.
As the toll mounted in Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra to close to 700, angry residents in suburban areas staged an impromptu road blockade to vent their anger at government agencies, which, they alleged, had failed to provide relief in some of the worst affected areas.
Agitated residents at Jogeshwari, Goregaon, Santa Cruz, Vakola, and Kurla protested against the lack of government effort to restore electricity, provide drinking water and clear garbage that had accumulated because of flooding.
A group of people in the Kalina area charged at Congress MLA Kripa Shankar Singh who visited them three days after the floods.
Mumbai’s great divide ' between slums and skyscrapers ' was in evidence even in the aftermath of the calamity when the stock market put behind the tragedy of the past few days to march past a new peak of 7,708.59 points.
The Bombay Stock Exchange sensitive index ended the day lower at 7635.42, but it was still a lifetime closing high.
Among the 30 shares that make up the index, only ONGC showed signs of being affected by disaster, though of a different kind ' the fire on one of Bombay High platforms.