Sunday, July 31, 2005

Best Way to Get Around Mumbai Today

Best Mode of Transport in Mumbai

Well, thank goodness that there are options when it comes to transportation around here. This SUV is not going to be stopped by streets with 6-foot deep water levels. At water levels that would leave cars totally immersed, this fellow will barely notice it.

Now aren’t you glad that we did not go with those compact Japanese models of elephants? Sure they gave more miles to the bale of hay, and were easier to park in the crowded streets, but they were useless when it came to crossing overflowing creeks.

Why we sank

Why Mumbai sank, by Dr V Subramanyan, ex-prof of Geology at IIT Bombay. No time like now to focus attention on just these thoughts.

4224, or was it 4244?

The Hindustan Times reports this morning ("Waves of fear and fury in deluged city", Aug 1) that "Municipal authorities said there was 4244 tonnes of garbage on the city's streets on Sunday".

How did they know? Did someone from the Municipality wander the city with a weighing scale? Did they just look at the garbage and estimate how much it weighed? Either way, why not make efforts to clear it instead of estimating how much it weighs?

Also, do reporters not apply some minimal scepticism to such claims? Why didn't someone at HT ask the "authorities", how did you get this figure? And in any case, what's being done about it?

Cry for help from the US for a little village in Kalyan

John Verghese, from Pennsylvania, U.S.A., has written this on the Mumbai Help Blog. Can someone suggest a way to help his little village in Kalyan? Or atleast information on how the local government can be informed about their plight. Here is an excerpt from John's message:
I have a family consisting of my father, mother and a sister back home.


My family stays at a small village called Mharal which is four kilometers away from Kalyan. People generally dont know where Mharal is simply because its a village and never in any sort of limelight. [...]

Most of the people who stay here at Mharal, work at Century Rayon Chemicals, one of the biggest producers of Rayon and Nylon in the country. [...] very close to our village. Century Rayon High School is the famous school in the vicinity. [...] The river Ulhas, flows close by to this village. So there is a constant fear of floods in the monsoon season. If you travel by road from Kalyan to the famous Titwala Sidhivinayak Mandir, you will definitely come across Mharal.

July 26th was one of the worst days that Mharal had seen. Houses in Mharal were submerged under water and the only thing that is left with people are their lives. They have nowhere to go and they are completely dependent on others for their basic necessities like food and drinking water. Telephone lines are completely out of order and the whole place is in a mess.

Even my family has lost everything and they will have to start everything from scratch all over again.

I wrote this article to bring to the attention of each and everyone reading this that there is a place in the world called Mharal which desperately needs help at this time of crisis.


John Varghese.
update: John, a message for you from the comments section:
Could you mail Suhail Kazi at kazionline AT gmail DOT com? Your email ID is not listed, so we can't contact you.
Suhail's message to you:
I just called up one long-time friend from kalyan. She stays in doodhnaka with her family. As rightly pointed out by John, she had little idea of this place - though she has heard of Ulhas river and century rayon. I have asked her (and some of my folks from mumbra) to find about marhal ASAP, and ping me.

Hopefully by morning (ie 6hrs from writing this comment -its 2:30am in Austin), we shd hv an early updt abt this place, and I can personally call up John and convey the message.

John, if you are reading this, pls write to me asap.

Another Wet Day - Update at 8.30 am

It has rained all night. Heavy to very heavy showers and gusty winds expected again in the next 48 hours. Expected rainfall is in the range of 100-120 mm today. The government has asked people to stay home and not venture out. All educational institutes closed - and many offices are declaring a holiday. My husband's been busy on the phone with his colleagues, asking them not to leave for work, as they are keeping the office closed today.

Reliance Energy which supplies power to the suburbs is coming under a lot of flak as in some areas like Sakinaka and Kalina they have been unable to restore power supply since Tuesday. Their meters are under 5 - 15 feet of water. It is frightening to think that these areas have been in the dark since Tuesday, July 26th.

BPL mobile subscribers last evening received SMS from the police commissioner :
"Due to heavy rains, water logging likely in city n suburbs. Pls donot travel unless absolutely essential. Police Commissioner, Mumbai"

Visibility at airports is really low, so there is a chance flights will be disrupted.

CNBC report that stock exchanges will be kept open today.

Insurance helpline

ToI reports that the National Insurance Co has started a helpline for flood-related claims. The numbes are 22822953 / 22820717 / 22841479 /22017109. Kalyan residents can call L.S.Sawant on 95251-2318487; 982133205 and Nitin Pole on 95251-2313896 or 9822603526. Thane residents can contact D.D.Gandhi on 25388497; 9324460044 and K.C.Dutta on 25341102; 9892420448 and S.B.Gaekwad on 25411295; 9324024888.

US Consulate to stay shut today (Monday, Aug 1)

The ToI reports that the US Consulate will remain closed today, Monday August 1. Those who had appointments for non-immigrant visa interviews today should contact the Visa Facilitation Services centre on 56575412 to reschedule. For emergency services the number they have provided is 23633611.


The schoolbooks of children in many schools of Chunabhatti and Kurla have been damaged, according to a report in today's print edition of Mumbai Mirror for which I'll post the link as soon as they update their website. They've provided a number if you'd like to help the children get their education back on track: call Prasanna Tathare on 98212-43434.

Drying out

Have you noticed the vast quantities of clothes/mattresses and so on laid out or hung out to dry along our railway tracks? This is in addition to the possibly vaster quantities of clothes/mattresses/household goods simply thrown away -- there are piles of the stuff dotting the city in addition to the more usual garbage.

But I was intrigued by those clothes along the tracks. Didn't strike me until I saw them that drying stuff would be a major headache after the downpour. Especially when the rain starts up again.

Vashi and the water situation

Here in Vashi, New Bombay, we've had very little running water in the taps since Tuesday. And the little that we did get has been brown. The rainwater I have been collecting from drums and buckets I have lined up under drains from the terrace seems to be much cleaner.

What's the water situation like in your neighbourhood?

Note: My family's situation was additionally complicated by a busted pump -- we couldn't get water into our overhead tank in the few hours that the NMMC did send water down the pipes. More fortunate neighours helped us with bucket-fulls sent from their own diminishing stock. The pump is fixed now, but there's been no company water flowing today

Media coverage of the cloudburst

Mumbai was again hit hard by the rains today, but you wouldn't know it if you looked at the Indiatimes website. At the time of posting this, they mention the rain in Mumbai in just the sixth headline from the top. The first two are about cricket, but the headlines that stand out, because they are in bold text, are the third and the fifth one. And these are:

Countdown: India's top 20 socialites
Global girls: half-Indian, fully famous

I point this out because it evokes one of the important questions I think we need to ask ourselves at this time. Many of us have pointed out the ineptitude of the administration during this crisis. I think we also need to ask if our mainstream media (MSM) have let us down. While some of the coverage has been good, time and again in the last few days, we have been served up with stories centred around celebrities, and I think the news most of us want to see from our newspapers goes beyond Marc Robinson's trauma at having to wade home after a pedicure or Amitabh Bachchan's not having had a bath in three days. Or the "grumpiness all around" that comes from not getting a copy of the ToI.

Most of the bloggers who are part of this blog have expressed similar sentiments in the last few days,and I do not believe that we are in a minority, and that the millions of people who subscribe to these MSM outlets actually prefer celebrity-oriented stories over good old-fashioned reporting in times like this. On the contrary, I think most people feel as let down as us, but have no way of expressing their feelings, and not enough choice (though that could be changing now). We are all, essentially, being taken for granted by MSM. And they no doubt believe that if a few of us vote with our wallets, it will make no difference to their bottomline.

So are they right? What is there that we can do, in practical terms, that will make a difference?

In pictures

The BBC has a small slide show here. And the Guardian's are here.

Rajeev Aiyar R.I.P.

One more tragic story.

On the 29th, a member of a writers' group I help run on Ryze [a social networking site, for those who haven't heard of it], posted about a friend who had:
Left office (next to MIDC – SEEPZ) at 7.00 pm on Tuesday, 26th July evening. Went through Nelco road towards highway. Called his residence from Cama Industrial Estate (Goregaon E) at around between 9.00 and 9.30.

He was approx. 10 mins away from home. Nothing has been heard of since then.
Several hours later, she came back to say:
I just wanted to inform you that after seeing the photograph on Star News, a lot of people called me up. Some from as far as Punjab. All of them were false alarms. Then at about 12.00 in the night, a man called up saying that he had seen Rajeev’s body being taken away from the Malad (W) (Nullah) Khaadi on the 27th evening. So some of the search party went there and at about 3.00 in the morning, they made a positive identification of his body.

His wife also subsequently identified him. He is going to be cremated today afternoon. It seems that between his house and the place where he made the last phone call was a nullah or an open gutter in which he fell. This was in Goregaon east - west border – from there he flowed out to the sea in Malad (W).

It is so ironical that from where he made the last phone call – he could see his house – it was just round the corner.

SMS from the Police Commissioner

My mother's mobile phone received this SMS around 6:30 pm today:
Due to heavy rains, water logging likely in city n suburbs. Pls donot travel unless absolutely essential. Police Commissioner, Mumbai
I think it's authentic as it was sent by BPL Mobile directly. It's also a great communication idea.

But, by 6:30 most of the rain had subsided. The SMS would have been most effective if it was sent by 10 am. It's not difficult for mobile service providers to send all their users a quick SMS. I think a simple request from the Police / Municipal Commissioner / State Govt and all mobiles in the city would have a quick and timely SMS warning. Why has no one thought of this earlier?

What I see on tv news...

I have been watching news sitting here in Madras. And I see different television channels reporting different, even somewhat conflicting news. NDTV 24*7 says the situation is not so bad and asks people to stay calm and avoid venturing out in the rains. While Aaj Tak is going on making it seem as bad as last week's downpour, strongly criticizing the government at the same time. Video shots aired by channels also seem to send out conflicting messages - I guess, depending on which area they were shot in. Somewhat like the blind men describing the elephant.

My neighbour in Bombay says there has been no water supply in many areas of Vashi for the last three days. And people have been buying bisleri for purposes other than drinking too. Wondering about those who cannot afford it. And about what will happen when there is shortage in supply...

Am stuck in Madras, all flights cancelled, no bookings open till Thursday earliest. And not knowing what the scene really is like there. Airports now open, now shut again.

INDIGENOUS DISASTER MANAGEMENT CULTURE : A Comparative Study Between the Cyclone Affected People of Bangladesh and Japan

I read somewhere that the local Koli fishermen knew that the rains were going to be very heavy and that there would be flooding in their areas. They had taken precautions. Maybe it is worthwhile to study in detail what methods are used by the local people to survive instead to relying on half baked ideas from from politicians and silly reports from the met department

INDIGENOUS DISASTER MANAGEMENT CULTURE : A Comparative Study Between the Cyclone Affected People of Bangladesh and Japan

Rain Action

The Government machinery is desparately trying to get the word "inaction" from being associated with it.

After Tuesday, when most of them were caught napping - read this really kafkaesque article by Anil Thakraney on the weatherman who should have sounded the alarm on Tuesday - we have them in complete action mode today.
- We received SMS's from the police commissioner asking us to stay put.
- we have senior Government officials on camera giving us updates on the situation.
- There has been a directive which has shut Schools in Mumbai and the adjoining areas for the next couple of days.
- Colleges are likely to be shut too.
- Special trains have been set up from Pune.
- And all along the road, there are trucks trying to move garbage.

Help! my government has been kidnapped and replaced with an efficient alien.

Traffic alert issued

Excerpts from Rediff:

[Police Commissioner] Roy said some areas in Central Mumbai -- King's Circle, Parel TT and Dadar -- and the eastern suburbs of Sion, Kurla and Chembur were waterlogged...

...On the western suburbs, people have been asked not to use the Milan and Khar subways. The arterial SV Road from Bandra and Andheri is also waterlogged, but it has reopened to traffic...

...Most of the long distance trains from Mumbai have been cancelled for the day. Suburban trains of the Western Railway were running 15-20 minutes late. The Central Railway authorities have advised people not to venture out.

Though the Mumbai airport has opened, the Union civil aviation ministry has said that most roads leading to the airport are waterlogged....

The Meteorological Department has predicted more rains for the next 48 hours.

On Wikipedia

Wikipedia has an entry for Maharashtra floods. I have added Mumbai Help and Cloudburst Mumbai in the References section.

My first time on Wikipedia. I can't describe it, but somehow I felt like first time on stage... full of butterflies inside my stomach, goosebumps, previewing 5 times etc..etc.. Wiki-fright, anyone? :p


Mid-day has this report about today's rains, as of early this afternoon. Obviously, things are slightly better and, as Dina says, there's a lull...

Sigh - a lull ....

A lull in the rains. Power is back. Roads are opening out now. The police were on the roads at Worli, Tardeo, HajiAli and diverting traffic. They've been opened now. SV Road is good to use too.

Low Lying Areas in Mumbai

This from the Mid-Day:

Mumbai's low lying areas
Colaba Lalit Building to Badhwar Park
Kalbadevi Kalbadevi Road near Cotton Exchange, Ghodaghadi Junction MK Road,
Pydhonie Nalbazaar to Alankar Cinema
Girgaon Khetwadi main road, Bank Road, Wilson College, Nana Chowk, Grant Road Junction, Babulnath Road, Duncan Road
Tardeo Tardeo Circle, Mahalaxmi Junction, Warden Road to American Embassy, Nepeansea Road, Keshavrao Khade Marg
Nagpada Mumbai Central Junction, Jacob Cricle to Chinchpokli
Byculla Junction Byculla Junction, Kalachowkie Junction, Albert Circle
Bhoiwada Hindmata to Bharatmata, Parel to Elphinstone Bridge
Bunder Ray Road Junction bridge and E Saade Point
Worli Poonam Signal, Bavla Masjid to NM Joshi Marg, Wadacha Naka, Worli Naka, E Moses Road Junction, Senapati Bapat Marg to Nehru Sceince Centre
Mahim LJ Road Junction, Sitladevi Temple Road
Matunga Matunga Police Station to Sion Hospital Junction, Dadar Circle
Kurla LBS Marg to Sonapur Lane
Mulund Mulund Subway
Bandra Milan Subway, Khar Subway, Linking Road, Gazebo Restaruant to Khar Telephone Exchange, Chitrakaar Dhurander Marg, Khar Danda
DN Nagar Andheri Subway, SV Road Andheri Market to Amboli Naka, Oshiwara Bridge, JP Road Junction and SV Road, JVPD Circle
Malad Malad Subway
Goregaon Nirlon Company to Cama Estate Services Road
Borivli Road Dahisar Subway, Mithi River in Dahisar

How did the waters recede?

On S V Road and Link Road it traveled viz major and minor nallahs to Mithi river/Arabian Sea.

Also along the Western Express Highway and subway to Bandra pumping station via an interconnected network

From Churchgate to Globe Mill Complex, Worli, to the Love Grove Pumping Station and then to the city

Most of the water at Colaba was treated at the Colaba pumping station and then let into the Arabian Sea

It Takes a City

Seeing and hearing all this was an overwhelming realisation that humanity still survives and that the sprit of Bombay endures in the spirit of so many unknown people who came forward as one to save life's and help other.

Also it taught another important lesson that before God's nature all men are equal, the rich and the poor the mighty and the simple. It was visible all though out when simple people from slums came forward to help those stuck up in cars, buses and in station.
Rediff has stories of courage and kindness here.

Long Wait at Saki Naka

"I do not think my wife is alive, but I have to see the body and hence I am waiting here... I had gone for work when this happened. I could return here only on Friday and since then I have not seen her."
It's a long wait at Saki Naka.

And out of Mumbai...

While Mumbai gets the bulk of the media attention, other parts of Maharashtra are also going through terrible times. Mumbai Mirror reports about a place called Jui:
This was a village of 40 families till Tuesday. On Friday, there were only five men left. The village perched on a hillock just slid off and disappeared after a landslide. “There is no wood to burn the dead. Armymen here are vomiting at the sight of dead bodies. God must have some purpose in keeping us alive to see all this,” Ramchandra Dewle, one of the five survivors, said.
Meanwhile, in Raigad, "Three villages have been erased from the district’s maps [my emphasis]." Mumbai Mirror has some accounts from Raigad here and here.

Government fails but the citizens don't

Vir Sanghvi expresses his anger in the Hindustan Times, asking:
[D]oes it make any sense for the municipal commissioner to go on television and to explain that Bombay’s drainage system is a legacy of the Raj and that it cannot cope with any more than a small downpour?

If this is so, then whose fault is it? What happens to the taxes that citizens pay? Why does nobody spend the huge tax revenues that come out of Bombay — the highest in India — in upgrading the drainage system? Each year, when the city shuts down for a day or two during the monsoons, the same explanations are trotted out. And yet, nobody does anything to improve the situation, to try and make sure that it does not happen again.

On Tuesday, hundreds of citizens lost their lives because of this negligence.
But while the administration messed up, Mumbai's people did not. As Sanghvi writes, "Even as the infrastructure — and the politicians who are in charge of it — let Bombay down, its citizens showed us what makes this one of the world’s great cities."

Sudheendra Kulkarni expands on just this theme in a column in the Indian Express, where he writes:
It has been said at the touch of love everyone becomes a poet. This too can be said: at the sight of collective hardship and suffering, every man and woman becomes a human being, a better human being, caring almost as much for one’s neighbour — or for the stranger wading through waist-deep water — as for oneself.
Kulkarni illustrates this by recounting his experiences during the rains.

Indeed, one of the common themes during disasters in India is that the government often fails to live up to their duties, while private parties take the initiative and do much of the work. Mumbai Mirror reports that a 'Damn the Authorities Movement' has sprung up in Mumbai, with citizens taking the initiative to clear up the mess and work to rehabilitate victims. The report says:
After Tuesday's deluge and the destruction it wrought, the people have begun putting their lives together again, all by themselves. They will not wait for the municipal corporation and its trucks; they don't want to know what the state government will do with the Rs 500 crore Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sent for the city; they don't even want to approach their corporators.
Oh, and the cheque that Manmohan promised Maharashtra has arrived, and this is what the authorities plan to use it for. Meanwhile Kavitha Iyer puts together a "to-do list" in the Indian Express.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Mumbai Reels Again under Rains

Bombay reels under rains again .... people are wildly stocking groceries and vegetables - milk powder is in big demand. I was at the vegetable vendor stocking up, and everyone seems so angry with the city administration for their lack of action.

It has rained heavily all night and continues to do so. Haji Ali, Worli Naka, Mahim Junction, Kalanagar Junction, Matunga, King's Circle, Sion Circle, are among the areas already waterlogged. I hope it doesn't create havoc again. Thankfully it is a Sunday, so as many people will not be stranded as they were last week. NDTV reports that rescue teams have been sent to Dharavi, Andheri, Vakola, Ghatkopar, Chembur. SV Road is closed between Bandra and Andheri.

Power is down again, as is the internet cable. Ironically, people are filling all the buckets and large utensils they have with water in case the water supply doesn't last.

Other Reports:
Heavy rains force closure of airports again
Water level rises again

Mumbai airport closed

Mumbai airport has been closed following heavy rains that began early today morning. All outbound flights have been put off, and inbound flights are being directed elsewhere. The rains are getting worse, water logging has happened in many parts of Mumbai, and you are advised to stay indoors for now.

Update (1.30pm): NDTV 24x7 reports that air traffic has resumed to and from Mumbai airport. However, some of the roads leading to the airport are still water-logged. The situation is fluid, so please independently verify flight timings. You can reach Air India at 28318888, Indian Airlines at 1407, and Jet Airways at 56986111. (Numbers via Mumbai Help.)

And More Rain

Just so that you know: it's been pouring again since late last night, both in South Mumbai and in the suburbs, and it shows no signs of letting up.

I'm blogging this as I get the information from television, and there has apparently been a traffic alert appealing to people not to venture into the streets if they can avoid it. Please stay indoors until further alerts are received from the traffic police. There's likely to be major disruption of traffic, and the traffic police have already begun diverting traffic from waterlogged areas.

Haji Ali, Worli Naka, Mahim Junction, Kalanagar Junction, Matunga, King's Circle, Sion Circle, are among the areas already waterlogged.

No cause for panic, however, as of now.

And while we're at it...'s time to ask what on earth's happening to our weather.
The death toll from the worst flooding to hit western India in nearly a century has reached 853 with hundreds of people still missing. Rain showers began intermittently hitting Mumbai and its outlying areas again yesterday, though with far less force than those earlier in the week that paralysed India's financial hub.
Go there for special reports on the weather, climate change, and more.

Flights Cancelled..

Several airlines, including Singapore Airlines and Jet, have reportedly cancelled their flights into and out of Mumbai for at least 24 hours. And as you may know, there was also this yesterday. But on another news channel, we're told that the airport is now operational. Obviously things are still not clear.

So, if you have a flight to take, either into this city or out, please call the airport desks of your airline for more information.

A Special Place in Hell..

...for these punters who made money gambling on the amount of rainfall in Mumbai. Are they sharing any of it with those children who have been orphaned, families who have been left destitute, people who have lost their homes and their livelihoods?

Maybe the punters can make some more money on today's rains. Double or quits, anyone?

On the Road, Irony

Dilip's reports about the Yadavs of Saki Naka; Dr Pande's long search; and on the road, irony.

Neglect turns into anger. And worse

NDTV reports that public anger might be turning into mass violence, as people in Kurla, Kalina, Saki Naka, Ghatkopar and Chembur are brimming with rage at the breakdown of civic services. Water supply and electricity have still not been restored in some of these places, and, the report says, "[i]n some cases, the stench of rotting carcasses for the past three days has also become unbearable."

"Three died in my galli."

As the water drains away from Mumbai’s pot-holed Western Express Highway, what emerges is the great rich-poor divide that gives the city its character.

Two days after the fatal rains lashed the city, much of Mumbai has limped back to “normality”. Local trains are back on track, BEST buses are plying in adequate numbers, night clubs are swinging, shopping malls are buzzing and multi-storeyeds stand where they are.

But not the slums, the worst affected in the floods. It is the slums from where most deaths have been reported. Many of these are sitting on health hazards of epidemic proportions.

In Nehru Nagar in Vile Parle, 18 people, including 11 children, died last night after a rumour of a tsunami descending.
Read the rest of "Mumbai moves on, minus slums," this Telegraph report on the aftermath of Terrible Tuesday. (Cross-posted)

The Rumours

...and the rumourmongers. This is what their rumours have led to.

And here is a look at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, post-rains.

This three-year old child, one of the victims of the stampede caused by the rumours.

The threat of an epidemic

PTI reports that an Air India Boeing 747 skidded on the runway in Mumbai this morning and overshot it. Luckily, there were no casualties. Flights out of the city have been suspended. However, Mumbai's residents still have loads to worry about: the BMC, fearing an epidemic of diseases, has issued a red alert, with the following set of instructions:
• Diseases to look out for are diarrhoea, dysentery, leptospirosis and typhoid

• Water should be filtered and boiled before drinking. Once the water starts boiling, continue boiling it for at least 10 minutes.

If required, chlorine tablets should be used for disinfecting water. They are available at municipal ward offices, health posts and dispensaries

• Do not eat exposed food

• Don’t self-prescribe medication. Though a dose of doxycycline is advisable to prevent leptospirosis, consult a doctor. Irregular use of antibiotics can have side effects

• In case of fever, go to municipal dispensaries, health posts or hospitals for treatment. Do not postpone treatment

• Do not walk around in stagnant water. Use gumboots for protection from contaminated water. If there is contact with stagnant water, then wash up immediately

• Keep the area around your house clean.

• In case of emergencies like landslides, floods, contaminated water in water taps, no water supply, contact: Control room: 108 or 22632315.
The BMC has also asked tabela owners to remove the carcasses of the 700 dead buffaloes still on the roads - 549 have already been removed. Meanwhile, India Inc has spoken out against the city administration and the state government, and has termed the aspiration to model Mumbai after Shanghai as "a cruel joke."

The Aftermath

This post was first put up on A POV

While administration and papers seem to be patting themselves on the back on ‘Mumbai limping back’ they haven’t said that it is at the pace and the steadiness of a mugged 90 year old who has been blind folded and has to find her way back home.

There is very little traffic on the roads. Most people I know are leaving their vehicles behind. That is assuming that the vehicles survived Tuesday’s downpour. Garbage is uncollected in most places. Trains, especially those on the Central Railway are still delayed - mom just came back from Andheri station after two trains to VT had been cancelled. And bus services are severely restricted. Most rickshaws seem on some form of life support system or the other. And many cars are non functional. Car pooling might be a good idea. just make sure that two people who can drive are in a vehicle.

While I can understand that the priority is to clear out the bodies - garbage is going to cause a health hazard sooner rather than later. It is already assualting the senses - it is only a matter of time before it starts assaulting our wellbeing.

A doggy resting on a pile of uncleared, sodden, garbage. It smells worse than it looks

One option, as citizens, is to log on to the excellent Praja site and send a complaint. I am sure that there is a helpline somewhere. But, it is most likely to be jammed. Residents in co-operative housing societies may consider pooling money to clear the garbage. It probably is going to be cheaper than extensive medical treatment.

If this sounds pessimistic, it is not. The human spirit can endure and bounce back. Systems and infrastructure take a wee bit longer.

Friday, July 29, 2005

"The Way of Our Work"

Days ago in the rain, a Saki Naka hillside collapsed on the homes of several construction workers, killing and orphaning. And I've been thinking about my encounter with some such workers, behind my home a few years ago...
Read Dilip's post, The Way of Our Work, and think about it.

Celebrate. Grieve.

Everyone has a personal story about where they were on Terrible Tuesday. Even Bipasha Basu.

I don’t. I was at home, is all. And it hardly rained near our house, in South Mumbai. Not that much, anyway: just like any other very wet day in a Mumbai monsoon.

But read on. (I'm linking to this because while I think Mumbai's spirit is magnificent, there have been some very real tragedies out there...)

Afer 944 mm

The Indian Express Newsline has some information and advice:

- About 25,000 homes are still without power.

- All flights, both domestic and international, have resumed from Chatrapati Shivaji Airport from Friday.

- On Central Railway, no outstation trains will leave CST on Saturday. All Western Railway trains are running on schedule. Konkan Railway closed for traffic. All major highways into the city, including the Mumbai-Pune Expressay, are open.

- MTNL phones disrupted on 26 and 27 July have been restored in most areas.

- Reliance power supply helpline: 30303030

- MSEB power supply helpline: 25686666

- BMC emergency complaints: 1916

- Fallen trees, short cicuits, fire: call 101 or 23085991

- BMC's Drainage control rooms: 23678100 (city), 26146852 (western suburbs), 25153258 (eastern suburbs)

- Central Railways: 134 or 22624711

- Western Railway: 131 or 22005388

- Air India: 28318888

- Indian Airlines: 1407

- Jet Airways Mumbai: 56986111

Still far from normal

Binoo Nair of Mumbai Mirror writes:
[The] rain may be over but the pain has just begun. The statistics cry out loud. In a train meant for 1800 people, almost 5000 travel on it during peak time. Now imagine if suddenly 52 trains were pulled out of this over-packed system. That's what's happened after Tuesday's flood. On Monday, when you're getting to work, many 12 coach trains won’t be there.

Now, let's look at the the buses. Of the 3600 BEST buses in the city that ferry 46 lakh commuters a day, 900 have been destroyed.
Read the full thing, in which Nair pithily dismisses the comforting cliche that Mumbai is "limping back to normal".

Mumbai Mirror also has a revealing story in which various people who run the city or parts of its infrastructure speak about the lessons they learned from the cloudburst. Vilasrao Deshmukh, Maharashtra's chief minister, says that a separate department is being set up for disaster management, and he thinks that will improve the system. More government doesn't necessarily mean better governance, and we hope that a mechanism will also be set up to hold the said department accountable if they fail to be proactive enough with regard to future tragedies.

After all, according to a previous report, a disaster cell was set up "to take stock of the preparedness of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation for the monsoon season," but, as a senior official was quoted as saying in the report, "[t]he monsoon situation was never discussed at meetings of the disaster-management cell." The next disaster to strike Mumbai may not be due to rain, and the task of a disaster-management cell or department is to prepare for different kinds of eventualities. (This doesn't mean, of course, that we indiscriminately hold the government responsible for all manners of natural disasters. Sometimes there's only so much you can do.)

Also, here are some slideshows Rediff has put up with some pretty affecting pictures of the tragedy and its aftermath: 1, 2, 3 and 4. And for what it's worth, Pervez Musharraf expresses his condolences.

Resources and essential services in Mumbai

Cross-posted on Mumbai Help.

Karmayog, a "site linking Mumbai-based nonprofits and volunteers", has got a section on their site that deals with the aftermath of the floods. They state their objectives thus:
a) asking for support - of materials, services, volunteers, money
b) offering support - government, corporates, ngo's, individuals, lists
c) examples of what happened - personal stories, photos, published reports.
d) suggestions and ideas and reasons - the type of letters you would send to a newspaper
e) to be used as a nodal point for pan-Mumbai orgs like AGNI, Rotary Clubs, Lion Clubs, all schools, etc.? e.g. helpline, tie-up with FM stations or police stations or railway stations, etc.
They have a useful list of resources, including 24-hour chemists, ambulance services, hospitals, police stations, free medical services and other essential services. They also have a good description of how the local administration is set up, with ward-by-ward listings.

(Link via email from Falstaff.)

Words and pictures from Mumbai

This post was first put up on India Uncut, and I'm mirroring it here because further news updates will take place on this blog. Please also visit Mumbai Help, an information resource for times such as this. If you would like to become a contributor to this blog, please email me or Peter Griffin (zigzackly AT gmail DOT com).

Of the many startling pictures of the devastation caused by the rain in Mumbai, this and this are worth looking at. They are part of a small slideshow put together by Rediff here.

Rediff has also collected first-person accounts from many people across Mumbai. Pictures on TV show people actually swimming through the water in some parts of Mumbai, as well as some makeshift boats.

Meanwhile, a fire has broken out on an ONGC oil platform near Mumbai, and rescue operations are on.

Update: More pictures here.

Update 2: The state government has set up a 24-hour helpline. The numbers are 22027990 and 22793551. (Numbers via Mumbai Mirror's useful information page.)

Update 3: Here are the latest reports from the Times of India, Mid Day, the Indian Express, and the Telegraph. Rediff has a whole bunch of stories on it as well.

Update 4: Uma has more here and here.

Update 5: One friend can't get out of Mumbai and another can't get in. Sonia has vivid accounts of being stuck in a plane, being deplaned and then another long wait in a hotel lobby before somehow managing to make it back home. Meanwhile, Rahul battles his way through the Konkan region of Maharashtra, which is quite as badly hit.

Update 6: "Mumbai limping back to normalcy," reports Rediff. The airport is operational again, reports Mid Day. The Times of India reports that the India Meteorological Department has warned that Gujarat may now face similar downpours. (NDTV reports that those rains have already begun.)

Update 7: Gaurav Sabnis hears water outside his door even though he lives on the fifth floor. He looks out through the window and finds himself "in the middle of a sea." He manages to get out, and finds "bloated carcasses of buffaloes" on the highway. Read his accounts here and here.

Update 8: Ravikiran Rao, who had many of us worried, blogs about his experience in the rain, and how the road that led to his home simply got "washed away". It's a vivid account. Meanwhile, the government dispels rumours of a tsunami hitting Mumbai, and Arun Simha constructs a tongue-in-cheek narrative of what will happen next, part of which stars Ravikiran.

NDTV has an update on Thane, and things look bad in Ahmedabad. Here's the latest update on the ONGC fire, and here's an estimate of the economic costs of the incident. Also, Amardeep Singh, guest-blogging on Sepia Mutiny, rounds up events and starts an interesting discussion. And Reuben Abraham points out that Mumbai received more rainfall on Tuesday than London does in a year.

Update 9: Anup examines how "different infrastructure systems including drainage, power, telephones, transportation collapsed in a short amount of time." And Rashmi Bansal expresses her outrage.

Update 10 (July 29): Uma is rightly aghast that our largest newspaper has lost all sense of proportion. The Times of India behaves as if the worst part about the rains was that some people couldn't get a copy of ToI, and quotes Ajit Wadekar as saying: "Only when I didn't get the Times of India on Wednesday morning did I really realise the full fury of the rains." Other luminaries chip in with similar comments, no doubt not wishing to endanger their Page 3 coverage.

Meanwhile, 16 people died in a stampede caused not by the ToI turning up at a nearby newsstand, but by rumours of a tsunami. And bodies are still being excavated from Kalina, one of the worst-hit areas. And since we're obsessed with celebrities, the Indian Express gives us an account of what some of our favourite people were up to.

Mumbai Mirror tells us about the city's disaster management plan, created in 2003 with the help of the World Bank but not implemented when disaster struck. It also takes us through the events that led to Mumbai High catching fire. And Jitendra Mohan recounts his own experience of being part of a much smaller fire on a different platform.

Update 11: AFP reports that the latest death toll in Maharashtra is 900, as the meteorological department warns that more rains are expected to strike Maharashtra. Maharashtra's chief minister has defended his administration against charges of ineptitude. Meanwhile, PTI has reported that a dance-bar owner begun the rumours of a dam burst and a tsunami, that led to a stampede and many deaths. "[T]hree bar girls [and] two eunuchs" were also allegedly involved.

Gaurav is collating incidents of generosity by Mumbaikars here. Jitendra has pics of Bombay High North: before, and after (here, here, here and here.) And Rediff has collected a bunch of riveting first-person accounts here. Also, Marc Robinson describes his trauma of having to wade home after a pedicure and manicure. (Link via Sonia.)

Update 12: This is the last update I shall post here. For more on this tragedy, please check Mumbai Help, a CollaBlog started by Peter Griffin and Sunil Nair. That will be constantly updated with news and lists of resources.

In case you're interested, my own account of the rains is here.

What this blog is about

News and links to news about the cloudburst on the 26th July, 2005, and its aftermath.