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Ratnagiri dam breach triggers memories of Panshet floods that killed nearly 1000 people in Pune

Almost fifty-nine years have passed since then, but the horror of Pune floods triggered by a breach in the under-constructed Panshet dam is forgotten by a few.

By: Express Web Desk |
Updated: July 3, 2019 1:07:34 pm
In the early hours of July 12, 1961, the under-construction Panshet dam breached early morning, following heavy rain. (Express Photo by Pavan Khengre/File)

Nine people were killed and 15 others are still missing after heavy rainfall led to a dam breach in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district. The breach in Tiware dam caused a flood-like situation in seven downstream villages, with many houses being swept away.

Today’s incident has triggered the memories of one of the worst dam breaches that Maharashtra had seen – the Panshet flood in 1961.

What had happened in 1961?

In the early hours of July 12, 1961, the under-construction Panshet dam breached early morning, following heavy rain. The collapse caused massive floods in Pune and surrounding areas. By the time the water receded, it left a trail of destruction.

While there is no official count for the casualties, it is estimated that nearly 1,000  died in the floods. Nearly 65,000 people had to be rehabilitated.

How devastating was the Panshet flood?

The worst-hit were low-lying areas and those located near the river in the old city. They were almost completely submerged. Residents of Peth areas in the old city, Karve Road and Deccan Gymkhana had to flee their homes.

Areas like Narayan Peth, Shaniwar Peth, Kasba Peth, Dattawadi, Bhamburda, Erandwana, Deccan Gymkhana and Abasaheb Garware Vidyalaya Auditorium were under water. There is a mark in the auditorium even now showing how much water had entered the auditorium. The Pune Municipal Corporation building, Shivajinagar roads, Apte Road, Bhandarkar Institute and Fergusson College were all flooded. The Laxmibai statue at Balgandharva chowk was submerged in water.

There was about 22.5 ft water at Omkareshwar,23.5 ft at Congress Bhavan,25.5 ft water at Sambhaji Bridge and Kelkar roads and people had to be evacuated. By 7 pm, the Mula river too was flooded and water entered Khadki areas as well. Nagzari and Ambil Odhas too were flooded.

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