Flights, rail services hit as monsoon rains slam Mumbai

A SpiceJet plane overshot the runway at Mumbai's airport on Tuesday night and became stuck in the mud as heavy rains hammered the city for the second time in less than a month. Unabated construction and rubbish-clogged drains and waterways have made
Unabated construction and rubbish-clogged drains and waterways have made Mumbai - India's financial hub and home to 18 million people - increasingly vulnerable to storms.PHOTO: REUTERS
A SpiceJet plane overshot the runway at Mumbai's airport on Tuesday night and became stuck in the mud as heavy rains hammered the city for the second time in less than a month. Unabated construction and rubbish-clogged drains and waterways have made
A SpiceJet plane overshot the runway at Mumbai's airport on Tuesday night and became stuck in the mud as heavy rains hammered the city for the second time in less than a month. PHOTO: MIHIR MISHRA / TWITTER

Plane stuck in mud when landing; schools closed and dabbawallahs stop deliveries

MUMBAI • Many flights were cancelled and trains ran late in Mumbai yesterday as heavy rains battered India's financial hub for the second time in weeks, causing massive disruption at the country's second busiest airport and forcing the closure of schools and colleges.

The Straits Times' checks on Changi Airport's flight status page online found at least one cancelled flight and delays of up to several hours between Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and Singapore's Changi.

Monsoon rains that have been lashing Mumbai since Tuesday delayed services on the heavily-used suburban train network in a city that is home to India's two biggest stock exchanges and the headquarters of several major companies.

Schools and colleges in the metropolitan area were ordered shut by Mr Vinod Tawde, the Education Minister for Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital.

The second such transport disruption since Aug 29 highlights the lack of infrastructure in a city where the population has surged to 18 million. The authorities are finally investing in a mass transit system, while residents still rely on a century-old drainage system.

"Mumbai needs much better disaster preparedness, given that rainfall patterns - quantity, timing and geographical distribution - are all changing," said economist Ajit Ranade at the Aditya Birla Group.

A deluge in Mumbai last month killed 14 people, damaged homes and caused chaos in the city.

NEED TO BE BETTER PREPARED

Mumbai needs much better disaster preparedness, given that rainfall patterns - quantity, timing and geographical distribution - are all changing.

MR AJIT RANADE, economist at the Aditya Birla Group.

On Tuesday night, low visibility, strong winds and slippery conditions caused a SpiceJet flight to overshoot the runway and become stuck in the mud while landing.

The airline said all 183 passengers on the flight from the northern city of Varanasi were safe, but the incident led to widespread disruption in air traffic. The plane was still stuck last night.

India's largest carrier Indigo and its rivals Jet Airways and Vistara said they had halted some flights to and from Mumbai.

"The main runway has been closed for operations and there are delays in arrival and departure of flights due to fluctuating weather," said a senior official at the Mumbai airport, adding that at least 50 flights had been cancelled.

Railway officials said trains were running normally but many residents decided not to take the risk, opting to work from home.

The city's famed dabbawallahs, who take hundreds of thousands of hot lunches from commuters' homes to their offices every day, also cancelled their delivery service yesterday.

Although Mumbai is trying to build itself into a global financial hub, parts of the city still struggle to cope with annual monsoon rains.

Unabated construction on floodplains and coastal areas as well as storm-water drains and waterways clogged by plastic garbage have made the city increasingly vulnerable to storms.

Mumbai is regularly deluged by rain between June and September, and floods in 2005 killed more than 500 people. The majority of deaths occurred in shanty town slums, which are home to more than half of Mumbai's population.

The city's Santacruz weather station recorded 30.37cm of rain in the last 24 hours, according to the India Meteorological Department. The centre recorded 33.1cm of rain in 24 hours that ended at 8.30am on Aug 30, which was the most since 94.4cm of rain in 2005.

Meanwhile, in north-east India, the authorities in the remote Himalayan state of Sikkim said six people were killed in a landslide yesterday when their home was swept away following a monsoon deluge.

Sikkim deputy chief Sudhakar Rao said four others were injured.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2017, with the headline 'Flights, rail services hit as monsoon rains slam Mumbai'. Print Edition | Subscribe