All 1050 passengers, including nine pregnant women, of Mahalaxmi Express which got stranded in heavy flood waters near Vangani have been rescued. The passengers were evacuated by rescue teams in what is now the biggest joint operation in the state by the Indian Air Force, Army, Navy, NDRF, Maharashtra Police, local agencies and volunteers since the great floods of July 26, 2005.
Teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Indian Navy teams of divers with specialised equipment, two helicopters of the IAF, including a Seaking and MI17, four columns of Indian Army were pressed for rescue operations.
Additionally, a fleet of ambulances with three dozen doctors including gynecologists, paramedics are deployed at Badlapur to tackle any emergency, 14 buses and three tempos were kept ready to move the passengers to onward safer locations.
The district administration made arrangement for meals, tea and fresh water at the Sahyadri Mangal Karyalaya and other locations in villages on the route between the stranded train and Badlapur.
Many weary passengers who were saved tried to walk, but when they lost strength, especially the senior citizens, police and others promptly hoisted them on their shoulders and took them to safer locations.
A few local villagers, many of whom were also stranded in the flood waters, nevertheless ventured out to help the train passengers early today before the official rescue teams from Mumbai, Thane and Pune reached the venue.
The official added that a relief train has been stationed at Badlapur to ferry the passengers, along with food, water and medical supplies, besides making arrangements to take the passengers onward to Kolhapur.
As rain continued to lash the coastal districts, many towns were practically underwater since early on Saturday as flooding local rivers and other water bodies overflowed into residential areas.
While the city's lifeline, the suburban trains in Mumbai functioned with delays of 15-20 minutes on Western Railway and CR, the latter had to cancel services between Karjat-Kalyan (in Thane) owing to floods and waterlogging on the tracks since Friday.
Though the country's commercial capital continued to get intermittent showers and rain, the worst-hit were Thane and Ratnagiri with towns of Ulhasnagar, Murbad, Badlapur, Tiwala, Vangani, Khed, Mangaon, Mandangad, Chiplun and surroundings practically submerged.
Due to the heavy rainfall and flood like situation, suburban rail services have been running at all sections except Kalyan-Karjat/Khopoli due to heavy rainfall leading to overflowing of Ulhas River between Ambarnath-Badlapur-Vangani.
It is to be noted that the IMD on Friday predicted isolated areas in Maharashtra are likely to witness more heavy downpour in the coming days.
In a statement, IMD said, "Heavy to very heavy rainfall likely to occur at a few places in the districts of Raigad. Heavy rainfall likely to occur at isolated places in districts of Thane, Palghar and Mumbai in the next three days."
“The southwest monsoon would remain active over central and adjoining south peninsular India in the coming days,” it added.
With PTI Inputs