Rescuers in India have combed through mud and debris in a frantic search for survivors after heavy rains lashed the western state of Maharashtra, triggering landslides, flooding and a building collapse and causing dozens of deaths.
The state government said in a statement on Saturday the death toll in multiple monsoon-related accidents since Thursday had risen to at least 76, with dozens of people missing. Other reports said the number of people killed had exceeded 100.
“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 statement said.
In hard-hit Raigad, south of Mumbai, where landslides buried dozens of houses, at least 47 people were killed and 53 others were feared trapped under layers of mud.
The downpour caused the Savitri river to burst its banks, leaving the town of Mahad completely inaccessible by road, and prompting terrified residents to climb onto rooftops and upper floors to escape swelling waters.
A combined rescue operation involving the army, navy and air force was under way to evacuate those stranded by the flooding. Their operations, though, were hampered by high water levels and landslides blocking roads, including the main highway between Mumbai and Goa.
Nearly 90,000 people have been evacuated in Maharashtra so far.
पूरग्रस्त भागात मदत व बचाव कार्य वेगाने सुरू आहे
Rescue & rehabilitation operations underway pic.twitter.com/t3OVtSeceX
— CMO Maharashtra (@CMOMaharashtra) July 23, 2021
Water levels rose to nearly six metres (20 feet) on Thursday in areas of Chiplun, a city 250km (160 miles) from Mumbai, following 24 hours of uninterrupted rain that caused the Vashishti River to overflow, submerging roads and homes.
Maharashtra’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.
“We will do whatever it takes to save lives and property,” he told reporters. “This disaster has hit the entire state from Nagpur in the east to Mahabaleshwar in the west. The rains have been unprecedented and we’re facing an unexpected emergency.”
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 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 poor Mumbai neighbourhood, 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.
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.