Flood waters rise in India's financial hub

Large tracts of India’s western financial hub of Mumbai were under water on Wednesday as the weather bureau warned further heavy rains were on the way and the death toll from the monsoon deluge rose to nine.

Residents of the city, which Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in 2004 could become a financial centre rivalling Shanghai, were forced to wade through ankle-deep water as workers battled to clear drains clogged with plastic bags and other debris.

Police said that since the rains began lashing the teeming city of 18-million people on Saturday, two people have been electrocuted, two have been hit by lightning and two street dwellers were crushed by a falling tree.

Three children drowned while playing in a well in a northern suburb.

The deaths brought to at least 234 the number who have been killed across India since the arrival of the monsoon in May.

The weather bureau warned on Wednesday that more “heavy to very heavy showers” were on the way and that “extremely heavy” rains were also possible.

It said Mumbai had 44,4cm of rain on Tuesday and another 19,3cm during the day on Wednesday.

The authorities said they had managed to get traffic back to normal following massive disruptions on Tuesday.

“Our staff continues to be on around-the-clock alert. We could see another wet day today; however, none of the major roads are waterlogged and traffic is moving normally,” Mumbai municipal commissioner Johny Joseph said.

The Mumbai municipality was lambasted on Wednesday by the High Court for its failure to tackle flooding of low-lying areas caused by the monsoon rains.

The court, responding to a public-interest litigation, said it appeared from the disruption of normal life in the city that the municipality had done little planning for coping with heavy rains.

Last July, the city authorities came in for severe criticism from residents and politicians for being caught unprepared for flash floods that killed more than 400 people.

Schools and colleges remained closed on Wednesday, but attendance in offices was reported better than at the beginning of the week.

“I decided to step into office late to avoid the early-morning rains. The rains were less but my drive down [from the suburbs] was horrific due to large potholes along several roads,” said Umesh Wankawalla, who works with an animation firm.

The authorities said they would decide later whether schools would remain closed on Thursday.

“We’ve not issued a specific advisory or warning.
We’ll review the situation as it evolves. Barring pockets of water-logging, the traffic situation appears to be improving,” said Mumbai police chief AN Roy.

Most train services and flights ran more or less on time but incoming long-distance trains were running one to three hours late, railway and airport officials said.

Mumbai airport’s main runway, meanwhile, was shut for two hours to enable damage caused by Tuesday’s rains to be repaired, airport director RJ Treasurywalla said. No flights were disrupted as a second runway was used.—Sapa-AFP