Mumbai Rains: Mahalaxmi Express passengers rescued in five-hours after train gets stuck at Badlapur
Nine rescue teams, 12 boats and five hours later, 1,050 passengers stranded on Mumbai-Kolhapur Mahalaxmi Express finally heave a sigh of relief
All 1,050 passengers stranded on the Mumbai-Kolhapur Mahalaxmi Express, which was stuck in deep water between Vangni and Badlapur stations, were rescued yesterday following a multi-agency operation that lasted over five hours. Heavy rainfall all through Friday, coupled with the overflowing of Ulhas river, left parts of Badlapur under water, bringing transport services to a complete halt. The express was stranded at the spot since 3 am on Friday.
Teams from the Indian Navy, National Disaster Response Force, Thane Disaster Management Cell, Talthi Level Rescue Team and Badlapur Fire Brigade led the rescue operations. Apart from this, an escort party from the Central Railway, the local city police and the RPF, along with 100 boys from the nearby villages of Chamtoli and Kasgaon, assisted with the rescue efforts.
Passengers use ropes to negotiate the water-logged tracks
Road to safety
The NDRF and Navy had around 12 boats that were being used to ferry people to the other side. Some of the stranded passengers also used ropes, manned by jawans, to reach a safer sport. Around 14 buses and three tempos had been arranged to take the evacuated passengers to Badlpaur and Kalyan stations, from where they were to board trains to Kolhapur.
While the nine pregnant women on board were evacuated using a special boat, the NDRF rescue team took time to rescue passengers from one of the bogies, as a few senior citizens were not ready to get into the boat. Baghirathi Gavkar, one of the passengers from the bogie, said, "There were four senior citizens who suddenly panicked and refused to leave the train. Some of us decided to use the rope to get out, but these senior citizens stood at the door and refused to let us go. It took over 30 minutes to convince them."
However, passengers had to walk nearly four kilometres, including climb a mucky hill, after the rescue team dropped them to a safe destination. Heena Kausar, 23, who was travelling along with her nine-month-old baby, said, "Climbing the hill with my baby, who had fever, was the most harrowing experience."
Local villagers were also seen helping passengers. Apart from carrying their luggage to the buses and tempos, they also made arrangements for autos to take the elderly, who were finding it difficult to walk.
NDRF personnel help passengers get into the boats
A nine-month pregnant woman, Reshma Kamble, had gone into labour on the train. Confirming the development, a spokesperson from CR said they had sent a team of doctors to assist her, and she was later taken to Badlapur.
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What caused the flooding?
Experts pointed out that alterations of land use near the railway tracks is likely to have caused the flooding. Raj Bhagat Palanichamy, who works as a GIS and remote sensing analyst with World Resources Institute (WRI) India, analysed the maps from 2003 and 2019, and found that the tracks were laid close to the floodplains of Ulhas river, where a natural island has been seen altered for "development".
Passengers were dropped to a safe zone, from where they had to walk another 3 km, before they could reach the buses arranged for them
"The island has been affected by quarrying activity. It seems they have built temporary roads in the island leading to the eastern banks, which affected the flow of water," Palanichamy said. He added, "Governments need to identify, demarcate, and protect floodplains."
Villagers help carry the luggage of passengers
Maps from 2003 and 2019, showing how land near the railway tracks in Badlapur, has been altered for quarrying activity
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Mahalaxmi Express passengers share their experiences