76 killed as India battered by heavy monsoon rains

By: AFP      Published: 11:34 AM, 24 Jul, 2021
76 killed as India battered by heavy monsoon rains
File photo.

At least 76 people have died in multiple monsoon-related accidents, Indian officials said Saturday, as heavy rains lashed the western state of Maharashtra, triggering landslides, flooding and a building collapse.

"Torrential rainfall in various parts of the state often coinciding with high tides and also discharge from dams led to various regions... getting inundated thereby resulting in floods across multiple districts", the Maharashtra government said in a press release.

The downpour since Thursday caused a building to collapse in Mumbai and sparked several landslides, burying dozens of homes and leaving 59 people missing, the government said.

Rescuers combed through mud and debris Saturday in a desperate search for survivors as the death toll from multiple monsoon-triggered landslides climbed to 45.

As many as 68 others were missing after heavy rains lashed India's western coast, causing landslides that buried dozens of houses in hard-hit Raigad district, south of Mumbai.

"Forty-three people have died in three landslides in the district... Rescue operations are continuing", Sagar Pathak, a disaster management official in Raigad, told AFP.

Fifty-three people were missing, he said, with many feared trapped under layers of mud following the accidents.

Earlier on Friday, state government spokesman Anirudha Ashtaputre told AFP that two others had died in Satara district due to landslides.

Elsewhere in the state, up to 15 people were also missing, according to state authorities.

The Navy, Army and Air Force sought to evacuate people stranded by flooding, but their operations were hampered by landslides blocking roads, including the main highway between Mumbai and Goa.

Water levels rose to 3.5 metres (12 feet) on Thursday in areas of Chiplun, a city 250 kilometres (160 miles) from Mumbai, following 24 hours of uninterrupted rain that caused the Vashishti river to overflow, submerging roads and homes.

Maharashtra state's chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said emergency workers were struggling to reach cut-off neighbourhoods in Chiplun, because of damage to roads and bridges there.

The Navy deployed seven rescue teams equipped with rubber boats, life jackets and lifebuoys to the affected areas, along with specialist divers and a helicopter to airlift marooned residents. 

India's meteorological department has issued red alerts for several regions in the state, indicating that heavy rainfall will continue for the next few days. 

Flooding and landslides are common during India's treacherous monsoon season between June and September, which also often sees poorly constructed buildings and walls buckling after days of non-stop rain.

Four people died before dawn on Friday when a building collapsed in a Mumbai slum, authorities said. 

The incident came less than a week after at least 34 people lost their lives when several homes were crushed by a collapsed wall and a landslide in the city. 

Rainwater also inundated a water purification complex last weekend, disrupting supply "in most of the parts of Mumbai", a megacity of 20 million people, civic authorities said. 

Climate change is making India's monsoons stronger, according to a report from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) published in April. 

The report warned of potentially severe consequences for food, farming and the economy affecting nearly a fifth of the world's population.