Extreme weather in India: Major disruptions in Mumbai, 30 dead

People making their way across submerged rail tracks in Mumbai. Over 375.2mm of rain fell on the Indian city in the 24 hours ending at 8.30am local time on Tuesday, shutting down schools and disrupting transport. It was Mumbai's second highest rainfa
People making their way across submerged rail tracks in Mumbai. Over 375.2mm of rain fell on the Indian city in the 24 hours ending at 8.30am local time on Tuesday, shutting down schools and disrupting transport. It was Mumbai's second highest rainfall recorded over a 24-hour period since 1974.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

India's financial capital Mumbai began recovering yesterday from an intense burst of rainfall that caused at least 30 deaths and affected daily life, shutting down schools and causing major disruptions to air and rail traffic.

The rain has since abated, allowing schools to reopen and public transport, including suburban trains, to resume services.

The main runway at Mumbai's main airport remained closed yesterday after a Boeing passenger aircraft overshot its mark while landing on Monday night.

Flights to the city were severely affected on Tuesday, with airlines cancelling more than 200 services due to heavy rainfall and the airport's reduced operating capacity.

More than 375.2mm of rain had fallen in Mumbai over the 24 hours ending at 8.30am local time on Tuesday, 200mm of which was recorded in just six hours.

It was the city's second highest rainfall recorded over a 24-hour period since 1974. Its highest rainfall in the last 45 years, which measured 944mm and killed more than a thousand people, was on July 26, 2005.

A large number of deaths associated with the latest deluge were caused by a wall collapsing on shanties in the northern Mumbai suburb of Malad early on Tuesday.

The death toll from the heavy rainfall across the state of Maharashtra since Saturday last week also rose to more than 60 yesterday, after the recovery of 11 bodies downstream from the Tiware dam in Ratnagiri district, south of Mumbai.

At least 13 others are still missing after rising waters breached a section of the dam late on Tuesday and flooded villages downstream.

More rainfall is predicted over Mumbai until Friday, with close to 200mm or more rainfall expected each day, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.

Private weather agency Skymet has also warned of a "serious risk of flooding" until Friday.

While heavy monsoon rainfall is expected this time of the year, the city's creaking municipal infrastructure has become poorly equipped to handle intense bursts of rainfall, a phenomenon caused by climate change in this region.

For example, the Hindustan Times reported that Mumbai recorded 327.5mm of rain from 8.30am last Friday to 8.30am on Sunday, compared with a total of 182mm for the 27 days before that.

The situation has been worsened by the increasing encroachment of tracts of land such as mangroves, which have traditionally served as a natural drainage system in the city. Based on the 2011 census, Mumbai has more than 12 million residents.

 
 
 

This intense period of monsoon rainfall along the western Indian coast comes at a time when many other parts of the country, especially in the north, are experiencing a prolonged heatwave.

Schools in and around Delhi were asked to remain shut for an additional week, following the summer break that ended on Sunday.

The southern city of Chennai also continues to reel from a water crisis that has been exacerbated by scant rainfall. Water supply has been significantly reduced, with many of the city's rich hiring private tankers to bring them water and the poor queueing up at municipal taps for their supply.

India recorded a monsoon deficit of around 38 per cent last month, with hopes that rainfall will pick up this month and the next.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2019, with the headline 'Major disruptions in Mumbai, 30 dead'. Print Edition | Subscribe