More Than 500 Killed in India Monsoon
BOMBAY, India – Rescuers working beneath leaden skies pulled bodies from rivers of mud Thursday as they searched for survivors of record-breaking monsoon rains that killed more than 500 people.
A stampede set off by rumors of a dam burst late Thursday also killed at least 15 people, including seven children, and injured more than 25 in a Bombay (search) shantytown, said R.R. Patil, deputy chief minister of Maharasht' Patil told The Associated Press. "Fifteen people have been killed and seven are children."
He said police vans with loudspeakers had been deployed to stem the panic.
Officials said 273 people have died in Bombay since Tuesday when the cosmopolitan city that is home to India's financial and movie industries was hit by an unprecedented deluge of up to 37.1 inches of rain in some areas, the highest recorded one-day total in India's history. Much of it came over a few evening hours, transforming roads into fierce rivers.
The rains stretched into Wednesday, paralyzing Bombay and devastating wide swaths of surrounding Maharashtra state (search) before they finally ended Thursday, leaving an overcast sky.
A government-ordered holiday kept workers at home Thursday as normally bustling Bombay, also known as Mumbai, struggled to get back on track. The Bombay Stock Exchange (search) did not open, and many banks and other financial institutions remained shut.
Phone service was still spotty, some neighborhoods remained without electricity, and stretches of road were blocked by hundreds of cars abandoned when they stalled in the rain.
By evening, train service was back and the city's airports, among the busiest in the nation, were again open to flights.
In the northern Bombay suburb of Saki Naka, relief workers and survivors searched the ruins of a shantytown crushed when a water-soaked hill collapsed on top of it. While the complete toll was unclear, at least 110 people were killed, and more than 45 others were missing and presumed dead.
"It was terrible to pull out little babies from under boulders and mud," said firefighter S. Shinde, wiping his brow with mud-caked hands. "The very young and the old just didn't make it."
Rescuers piled bodies onto trucks and flagged down private cars to carry dozens of injured people to hospitals.
In Bombay, most victims drowned, were crushed by falling walls, or were electrocuted.
The morning after the deluge, the government began warning people to remain in their offices or homes. But for some who had set off from their offices Tuesday night, the warnings came too late.
"I lost count of the number of people who were electrocuted. There were clusters of people who stepped on exposed wires," said civic relief worker Arya B. "They should have just stayed where they were."
At least 513 people were reported dead across Maharashtra state since Monday, said B.M. Kulkarni, the deputy secretary in charge of the state's emergency control room in Bombay.
Bombay residents responded to the devastation by opening their homes and distributing food to motorists stuck in traffic and people wading through water.
"They were just angels. Women and children were giving food, biscuits to people on the road and even assuring us that it was home-cooked," said G. Sawant, a manager at a private infrastructure company.
Residents tied ropes across flooded roads to help people wade through waist-deep water as workers repaired communication networks and towed away abandoned cars and buses.
But many stories ended in tragedy.
Pallavi Jain shuddered when she recalled how no one could help the motorists in a car behind hers Tuesday.
"My car was flooded with water in less than five minutes. I managed to get out and just saw the car sink. I couldn't believe this had happened on a Bombay road," said Jain, 25, a computer programmer on her way home after spending two nights in a friend's home.
"There were two men in the car behind mine and by the time people tried to open their door, it was too late. They couldn't do anything. The doors were jammed. It was awful."
After sleeping for two nights on couches and carpets in their offices, hundreds of Bombay residents clambered onto trains Thursday to get back to the suburbs.
By Thursday, much of the rainwater had ebbed and roads were drying out, although in the worst-affected areas in the suburbs, people were still walking in knee-deep water.
State police officials said rescue teams were distributing food and water to people marooned in villages cut off by floods.
Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram of condolences to Indian officials. In Vatican City, the pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano said Benedict was "deeply saddened" to learn about the deaths in Bombay — home to some of India's oldest Catholic churches — and in other parts of Maharashtra.