73 dead, 8 at a Covid hospital: rain batters west Maharashtra

Among the dead were eight admitted to a Covid hospital in Chiplun, Ratnagiri, who were killed when water entered the premises.

IAF personnel carry out rescue work in flood-hit Chiplun, in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, on Friday. (Defence PRO)

More than 73 people have died in Maharashtra since Thursday evening as rain described as “unprecedented” by the state government caused landslides and house collapses in the western and southern areas of the state. Over 7,000 were rescued in badly hit Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur districts.

Among the dead were eight admitted to a Covid hospital in Chiplun, Ratnagiri, who were killed when water entered the premises. Collector B N Patil said, “Four people were on ventilator and they could have died due to lack of power, and four probably died because of trauma.” The Aparant Hospital had 22 patients, and the others have been shifted. Konkan Divisional Commissioner V B Patil said they had not received any distress call from the hospital.

More than 45 people were killed and around 13 injured in three separate incidents in Raigad district alone, with around 40 missing still. Around 50 villagers are feared trapped in landslides in Satara and Ratnagiri districts, at least 30-35 in the two villages of Ambheghar and Mirgaon alone. In Satara district, three bodies have been retrieved so far, and in Ratnagiri, four.

Sections of the Konkan Railway track were also washed away. A Konkan Railway official said two trains were stuck at Margao. The line is expected to be operational by Saturday.

Such was the intensity of the rain that Mahabaleshwar saw its wettest day ever, receiving 594 mm rainfall over a 24-hour period ending 8.30 am — equivalent to the annual rainfall in districts such as Ahmednagar, Solapur, Dhule and Sangli. In the last 48 hours, Mahabaleshwar has received 1,078 mm of rain, cutting off villages, and causing heavy crop damage. The administration appealed to citizens not to venture out unless an emergency.

The maximum casualties, 32, were reported from Taliye village near Mahad taluka, with 35 houses getting buried under a hillock Thursday evening. “Rescue operations are on,” said Raigad District Collector Nidhi Chowdhury.

Poladpur taluka’s Govele panchayat saw a landslide around 10 pm Thursday, with more than 10 houses coming under debris or being washed away. Six bodies have been recovered from the spot, while 10 people were rescued.

Rescue teams could make it to the site only Friday morning, after battling heavy showers, damaged roads and waterlogged bridges. The Savitri river in the district is overflowing and has crossed the danger level.

Satara Collector Shekhar Singh said 30 were missing following several landslides at Patan, while 300 had been rescued. Another two had drowned in Wai, while 820 had been rescued at Karad. “We will start rescue at dawn break on Saturday,” Singh said, adding roads were either blocked or have been washed away, making it difficult to reach the spot. “Officials are trying to reach on foot. In Mirgaon, they used boats.”

The districts of Kolhapur and Sangli are on alert to avoid a 2019-like situation when floods had wreaked havoc. “The discharge from Koyna dam which is 10,000 cusecs will be increased by 50,000 cusecs. This will lead to a rise in the water levels of Krishna river. We have sounded an alert for 104 villages along the river and started evacuation,” Sangli Collector Abhijit Chaudhary said.

The Kolhapur Guardian Minister and Minister of State for Home, Satej Patil, said: “The situation in Kolhapur is very bad. We are completely cut off… Around 300 villages have been put on alert. Villagers which were completely submerged in 2019 are being evacuated… Besides Koyna, discharge from Almatti dam in Kolhapur is also set to be increased.”

PTI reported that 11 people were rescued just in time before the bus in which they were travelling was swept away in a flooded river in Kolhapur early Friday morning. A case was registered against the driver of the private bus for driving onto a flooded bridge, despite warnings, and after removing a log placed to stop vehicles. The bus skidded and landed in the river. As the passengers who were asleep scrambled to the roof, locals along with police and home guards used a rope to haul the 11 up. Moments later, the bus was swept away, police said.

Of the passengers, eight were people originally from Nepal who work in hotels in Goa and were on their way home via Nashik.

Twenty-five passengers aboard another Ratnagiri-bound bus stranded in water on Kolhapur-Panhala road were also safely evacuated, PTI reported.

Collector Patil said nearly 2,000 people had been rescued in Chiplun. By Friday, water had started receding in the city.

The Mumbai-Goa traffic road is expected to be severely affected over the next few weeks, with part of the Vasisthi river bridge washed away. Work has started to repair it so that at least lighter vehicles can use the road.

Relatives of those missing in the worst-hit Taliye village spent sleepless hours. Pranita Panchal said, “Since Thursday evening we have had no communication with our family members. Finally my brother went from Kalyan to check. Our cousin sister is dead, we have no idea about the rest of her family, including her five-month-old baby, 10-year-old daughter and in-laws. Her husband got saved as he was out at work on night shift.”

The Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, as well as National Rescue Defence Force and State Rescue Defence Force have been deployed for rescue operations. Those marooned in Raigad district were airlifted.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who visited the disaster management control room in Mantralaya, called the rain unprecedented. The state has announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the relatives of the deceased and the Centre another Rs 2 lakh.

With inputs from Anjali Marar

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