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Monsoon causes chaos in Mumbai

MUMBAI: At least 15 people were killed in Mumbai early Tuesday when a wall collapsed as torrential monsoon downpours brought chaos to India’s financial capital and surrounding areas.

Another 69 were injured when the structure came down around 2am (3.30am Monday in Thailand) in a slum settlement, Tanaji Kamble, a disaster management spokesman for Mumbai’s local authority, told AFP.

The tragedy came as the teeming coastal settlement of 20 million residents was lashed by heavy rains for a second consecutive day, bringing the city to a virtual standstill.

Authorities declared Tuesday a public holiday and advised all residents to stay indoors. Schools and colleges were closed while almost 100 flights were either canceled or diverted from Mumbai airport.

The airport’s main runway was shut after a SpiceJet plane carrying 167 passengers and crew overshot the runway shortly before midnight Monday.

“It will take some time to move the aircraft,” a spokesperson for the airport told AFP.

According to Skymet Weather, a private weather tracking agency, large swathes of Mumbai received around 350 millimeters of rain overnight into Tuesday morning.

The deluge left low-lying parts submerged in water.

“Everything around us is flooded. It’s scary and the problem persists every year despite government promises,” Vishal Agawane, a 32-year-old resident of Dharavi, one of Asia’s largest slums, told AFP.

Around 1,000 people living close to the city’s Mithi river were evacuated to higher ground as the river threatened to burst its banks, said Kamble, the disaster spokesman.

Train services on Mumbai’s colonial-era rail network, a lifeline for the city’s population, were disrupted due to waterlogged tracks while motorists were seen pushing cars through flooded streets.

Rescuers were sifting through the wreckage of the wall that collapsed in a slum area in Mumbai’s north, in the hope of finding more survivors trapped under rubble.

An unnamed man helping efforts told NDTV that they had located a 10-year-old girl.

“She is begging for water. The fire department is doing its best to try to rescue her,” he told the news channel.

Building collapses are common during the monsoon when dilapidated structures buckle under the weight of continuous rain.

Three people, including a toddler, were also killed Tuesday in Thane district, which borders Mumbai when a wall collapsed at a school.

And six laborers died near the western city of Pune, 150 kilometers (around 100 miles) from Mumbai when a wall fell onto their makeshift shacks. At least 15 laborers died in a similar accident on Saturday.

Mumbai’s streets regularly flood during the monsoon, which runs from June until September or October, and which provides India with most of its annual rainfall.

In 2005, 950 millimeters of rain fell on the coastal metropolis in just 24 hours, killing more than 500 people.

In August 2017, intense rainfall brought the commercial hub to a virtual standstill for two days and left at least 10 people dead.

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 is extremely effective in helping to drain water, has been destroyed over the past decade to make way for glitzy high-rises.

According to various studies, anywhere between 40% to 50% 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.

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