Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

India monsoon: Six dead and 18 missing after dam breached

The heaviest monsoon rains in a decade have hit the South Asian country

Pedestrians wade through flood water in Mumbai, India, on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. Bloomberg
Pedestrians wade through flood water in Mumbai, India, on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. Bloomberg

Six people were killed and at least 18 were missing on Wednesday after the heaviest monsoon rains in a decade breached a dam in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, authorities said.

Drones were used to locate the dead, Alok Awasthy, spokesman for India's National Disaster Response Force , told AFP.

"We have deployed two teams after the Tiware dam breach occurred last night and are looking for survivors," Mr Awasthy added.

Besides NDRF, police teams and government officials were also looking for survivors in Ratnagiri, 275 kilometres from Mumbai.

On Tuesday, a wall collapsed in a Mumbai slum because of the rains, killing at least 22 people and injuring scores as the deluge crippled India's sprawling financial capital.

Six labourers also died in the nearby city of Pune when another wall collapsed.

On Wednesday rains continued to lash the coastal city of 20 million people, bringing it to a virtual standstill as flooding cut train lines, closed the airport's main runway and caused traffic misery.

Building collapses and dam breaches are common during the monsoon season in India due to dilapidated structures that buckle under the weight of continuous rain.

India's weather department has warned of "extremely heavy rainfall" in parts of Mumbai in the coming days.

Skymet Weather, a private-weather tracking agency, said Mumbai faces serious risks of flooding with more than 200 millimetres of rain expected in the next few days.

Heavy monsoon rains in Maharashtra have led to at least 34 deaths since Monday night, from collapsed walls, drownings and other causes. Dozens of others have been injured.

Mumbai has been the worst-hit city, where at least 24 people have died and over 60 others are injured. Five days of rain in Mumbai disrupted flights, flooded roads and covered train tracks, though services were partially restored on Tuesday and resumed as the rain cleared on Wednesday.

India's Central Railway said in a tweet that "nature's fury" made operating trains a "safety hazard" in some areas. Train services were running only partially on Tuesday after thousands of passengers were stranded overnight. Millions of passengers commute daily on a network of famed railways in Mumbai.

The monsoon season in India brings heavy rains from June to September that cause flooding and other damage. Building and wall collapses are common as the rains weaken the foundations of poorly built structures.

In 2005, 950 millimetres (37 inches) of rain fell on the coastal metropolis in just 24 hours, killing more than 500 people.

At least 10 people died in August 2017, when intense rainfall brought the commercial hub to a virtual standstill for two days.

Activists say Mumbai's susceptibility to floods has worsened in recent years due to a construction boom that is trying to keep up with the city's swelling population.

Much of Mumbai's mangrove cover, which helps drain water, has been destroyed over the past decade to make way for glitzy highrises.

According to various studies, anywhere between 40 to 50 percent of the city's population live in slums, which become a sea of blue tarpaulin every monsoon as residents try to keep out the rain.

Updated: July 3, 2019 03:54 PM