FOR 34-YEAR-OLD Hazarat Ali, the trip to Kolhapur to see his critically ill wife took another grim turn after the Mahalaxmi Express was stranded near Badlapur on Saturday. “My daughters got lost, I had to walk through knee-deep water and all the time I was worried about my wife,” Ali said while sipping tea on Saturday evening.
His daughters, aged 14 and 11, got separated from him during the rescue efforts. Ali found them with the help of the police and local disaster management teams after almost three hours.
“My wife Arshiya had gone to her native place in Kolhapur for the birth of our third child. She is critical and we have lost our baby due to some complications. I wanted to take our daughters, Maimuna and Mugisa, to see their mother over the weekend, possibly for one last time,” he added.
More than 700 passengers were stranded inside the Mahalaxmi Express in Chamtoli village, three km from Badlapur after incessant rains led to flooding on the tracks.
“The train was halted at Ambernath for three hours. Then we started to move ahead but the train again got stuck near a bridge and water started streaming on the tracks,” said Surendra Awale, a police constable from Sangli, who had come to Mumbai with his family to receive an award from the state DGP.
“I have won the award for the second time on Thursday. My entire family, including my son and his wife, had come and now, we are stuck,” Awale added.
Awale and some members of the Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) disaster response team said the coaches had started tilting when the rescue operation began. “Overnight rain had washed the soil away from under the train, making it lean on to the ground. Our luggage slipped out and fell into the water,” Awale said.
The NDRF teams reached the site of the marooned train on Saturday morning. “The local boys helped them get the boats into the water, carrying it over their heads,” said a KDMC disaster responders.
When the NDRF reached their coach, Sameer Ali (38) was fearing for his the life of his 15-day-old daughter. “We were on way to Sangli from Ajmer. We had gone to Ajmer after our baby was born. In all, 10 of us, including my father, were stuck with no food or water or even milk for the children,” he said.
“As soon as people asked us to step down from the train using ropes, we jumped with the children. All of our bags and luggage is still inside the train,” he added while trying to feed water to his 3-year-old nephew who developed a fever.
The residents of Potdar Evergreen, a residential society located 3 km from the spot where the train got stranded, came out to help the responders.
“The villagers of Chamtoli helped the passengers through the night. We are just trying to manage traffic and provide the passengers with food. The tourists have blocked traffic movement since morning,” said Pravin Chenna (36) an IT professional and resident of Poddar Evergreens, who had been diverting traffic since 10 am.
He added, “While there is intermittent rain, the slippery mud has made rescue work more testing. We are constantly bringing water for the personnel so that they can wash their hands and feet.”
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