35-year-old Dipali Thakur remembers when the Ulhas river overflowed a few days ago, and water entered her house at Ayodhya Nagari apartments, around 3 km from the river. Now, as rains continue in Thane district, fake alerts and old pictures are spreading misinformation, leading to anxiety and fear for families such as Thakur’s.
“We got messages saying they (the authorities) are going to open the gates of all the dams. If that happens, the floods will be massive,” Thakur said.
Her husband, a locopilot for the Indian Railways, Sudipto Thakur said of the earlier flood, “The water gushed in almost at once during dawn. We barely had time to pick up our two children aged 10 and 7 and make a run for it.”Like the Thakur children, Sanya (12) and Sambhav (7) Kamble have not gone to school since Monday.
“Their school bags were kept on the ground near the kitchen. They got washed away… They have lost their school uniforms as well,” said their mother Payal Kamble (38), a salon owner.
“When I called the school to inform them on Monday, they said they had gotten several calls from other parents. That means they will not miss anything important,” she added.
Residents of Badlapur, Ambernath and Ulhasnagar have been turning to their WhatsApp groups for help and advice. In between messages asking for extra portable chargers and offers of homemade food for anyone whose kitchen is flooded, are messages about dam gates being opened.
“There was talk of some dam opening its gates. We don’t know which one they are talking about or if it will lead to more flooding here. But we should be prepared,” Anjali Kulkarni, a resident of Badlapur, said.
The urgency stems from the fact that during the intervening night of Friday and Saturday, while ground-floor houses were flooded by up to 8 feet of water, they had no help, said residents.
“We heard NDRF was being sent here but later realised they were going to Vangani,” Thakur said. “If we know beforehand, at least we will be prepared.” However, Thane Collector Rajesh Narvekar said no dams around the city were supposed to discharge water. “There is no threat as of now for water to enter urban areas. However, we have alerted all our ground-level staff. Only one dam is releasing water and that will pass through Shahapur, where everyone from the panchayat to talathis and additional in-charges have been asked to be on high alert,” he said.
When told, Kamble said, “Although this is a relief…we are going to stay at a friend’s place until I feel more confident.”