Landslide on Mumbai-Pune Expressway throws traffic off-gear

A major landslide at 10 am on Monday on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway at Khandala blocked traffic towards Mumbai; though authorities have cleared the debris, all three lanes towards Mumbai may be thrown open only by noon today

Traffic on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway came to a standstill on Monday after a landslide, which was triggered due to heavy rains. Traffic was held up for more than five hours, after which traffic to Mumbai was diverted to the old Mumbai-Pune road, via Lonavala.

At around 8.30 am yesterday, a few small boulders got dislodged along the Expressway at Rajmachi point near Khandala tunnel, triggering the landslide
At around 8.30 am yesterday, a few small boulders got dislodged along the Expressway at Rajmachi point near Khandala tunnel, triggering the landslide

Though the road was subsequently cleared, authorities expect traffic to start flowing on all the lanes only by noon today. At around 8.30 am yesterday, a few small boulders had got dislodged on the Expressway at Rajmachi point near Khandala tunnel, which triggered a major landslide at 10 am over the third lane towards Mumbai, of the arterial route.

Also Read: Heavy rains trigger landslide on Pune-Mumbai expressway

More than 100 policemen were involved in clearing-up operations
More than 100 policemen were involved in clearing-up operations

A car (MH-46-P-005) was caught in the fusillade on the opposite lane towards Pune, and the highway police rushed the driver to Lokmanya Hospital (at Nigdi, the outskirts of Pune) where he was discharged after first aid.

Cop speak
Immediately after the incident, Sunil Sonawane superintendent of the highway police said, “Our team is trying its best to clear the road. The landslide took place at around 10 am, and since then our highway police along with the Pune rural police and a team from IRB (the toll-collector) are trying to clear the road.”

There was a massive traffic jam at Khandala after traffic was diverted to the old Mumbai-Pune highway
There was a massive traffic jam at Khandala after traffic was diverted to the old Mumbai-Pune highway

Assistant Police Inspector Mohan Chalke, in-charge of Khandala traffic division said, “The entire portion of rock fell on the Expressway lane to Mumbai. A rock rolled down on an SUV on the opposite lane (towards Pune). More than 100 policemen with the highway police, IRB team, and Pune rural police are handling the traffic.

Around 5 pm, we cleared the road, but we have still not taken any decision to begin traffic. We do not want to take any risk, so a meeting of senior officials is going on with the tahsildar (from Lonavala) after which the decision will be taken.” He added, “Initially small rocks started falling from 8.30 am, so we had alerted our rescue and emergency services.

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Around 10 am we rushed to the spot and with the help of one JCB and three dumpers, we cleared the lane. Initially, we had to block all the lanes towards Mumbai, and we diverted the entire traffic to the old Pune-Mumbai highway. But there was major traffic chaos at Lonavala so the decision was made to use one lane of the Expressway out of the three towards Mumbai, so that traffic could move on.”

It’s pouring there
On Friday, Khandala received around 70 mm rain; on Sunday, the area recorded around 158 mm of rainfall. Landslides have been reported on the Expressway in 2005 and 2008. Steel nets 26,000 sq m in all were subsequently placed along the Expressway at areas where there is a risk of landslides.

Sachin Mhatre, MSRDC (Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation Limited) control room in-charge at the Expressway said, “After the incident, some 50 calls have come to our control room asking if travel to Mumbai via the Expressway is possible. The rocks (which have been dislodged) are more than 100 kg each; two machine drillers were called in to break them up.”

Many travellers were stranded due to the chaos

Sachin Vakari (35), a businessman from Lonavala
I, along with my friend, planned to conclude a deal for a flat in Chembur. As we reached the tunnel we found police clearing the lane and we heard about the landslide. Now we are stuck in traffic for more than two hours. It’s going to be difficult to finish the deal and come back to Pune.

Prem Sagar (45), a lawyer from Kothrud, Pune
I planned to visit Mumbai to look into my cases and I had a hearing in the High Court, post lunch. It’s now 1 pm and it’s difficult for me to reach Mumbai and attend the court hearing. I will go back home. My wife is worried after she heard the news about the landslide.

Dipti Sadaangane (51), LIC employee
I had come to Pune on Sunday and had plans to leave to Mumbai on Monday around 10 am. I will go back to Pune and will leave for Mumbai on Tuesday. But today I had to take a holiday.

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