Navy helicopters and emergency service boats came to the rescue of more than 1,000 passengers stranded on a train in floods near Mumbai yesterday.
The Mahalaxmi Express left Mumbai late Friday for Kolhapur but travelled only 60km before it became stranded after a river burst its banks in torrential rain, covering the tracks.
The train was stuck for about 12 hours near Vangani in Thane district before authorities called in the navy and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) who deployed helicopters, boats, and divers.
Indian Railways said the train was emptied in about five hours after the operation started.
Nine pregnant women were among those taken off.
Passengers on board the train had appealed for help on social media by posting videos of their situation they shot on mobile phones.
Aerial images showed boats taking people wearing life jackets away from the stricken train, trapped in a sea of muddy brown water that covered surrounding fields.
Ambulances and at least 37 doctors were sent to treat passengers, who were also given food and water, the railways said.
However, several passengers said that they had no drinking water or food for up to 15 hours and that there was no way to leave as the train was cut off by up to 180cm of water on all sides.
Federal Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai spoke to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and offered all help from the central government.
The rescue operation picked up in the afternoon when rain subsided a little, enabling quicker movement of personnel and the evacuated passengers.
Many weary passengers attempted to walk, but when they lost strength, police and other rescuers promptly hoisted them on their shoulders and took them to safety.
A few local villagers, many of whom were also stranded in the flood waters, also ventured out to help the passengers early in the day before the official rescue teams from Mumbai, Thane and Pune arrived.
The passengers were brought off the train into boats and taken to a small village around 1.5km away where the villagers welcomed them with water, hot tea and biscuits and even carried their luggage and the children.
From there the passengers boarded buses, tempos and smaller vehicles to go to Badlapur, 7km away.
A spokesman for the state company added that a “special relief train” would take people onwards on their journeys.
Heavy monsoon rains battered Mumbai forcing the cancellation of 11 flights from the financial capital’s international airport yesterday.
Nine incoming planes were diverted to other airports.
The main highway from Mumbai to the resort of Goa was closed because of rising waters.
Mumbai’s suburban trains functioned with delays of 15-20 minutes on the Western Railway and Central Railway. Services between Karjat and Kalyan were cancelled owing to floods.
Though the country’s commercial capital continued to get intermittent showers, the worst-hit were Thane and Ratnagiri with towns of Ulhasnagar, Murbad, Badlapur, Tiwala, Vangani, Khed, Mangaon, Mandangad, Chiplun and surroundings practically submerged.
At least 20cm of rain fell in some parts of Mumbai over 24 hours.
One of the world’s biggest cities with around 20mn inhabitants, Mumbai struggles to cope with heavy rainfalls and subsequent flooding every monsoon season between June and September.
More than 250 people have died in flooding across India in the past two weeks, with Assam and Bihar the worst hit.
The army said it had rescued more than 150 people stranded in their homes in Assam’s Nalbari district in recent days.