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Mumbai, India Deluged By 37" Rain in 24 Hours


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India rain death toll nears 750

Arrests made over rumors that led to deadly stampede


Friday, July 29, 2005; Posted: 1:28 p.m. EDT (17:28 GMT)




MUMBAI, India -- Nearly 750 people have died from torrential, record-setting rains that soaked Mumbai and triggered mudslides in the region, police said Friday.


Police said 749 people had been killed in the state of Maharashtra in western India, with 376 of those deaths in the city of Mumbai -- formerly called Bombay. The heavy rains drenched Mumbai overnight Tuesday, triggering mudslides and heavy floods across the region.


The city is used to heavy rain during the monsoon season, but Mumbai was deluged with 37 inches (940 millimeters) of rain in 24 hours -- the most any Indian city ever has received in a day.


Officials declared a public holiday on Wednesday and Thursday, closing banks, schools and offices.


On Friday many of those reopened, and vehicles could be seen on the roads. Electric power, however, remained spotty, and downed trees were a common sight.


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the city Thursday, pledging to dedicate millions of dollars in aid to help residents recover and rebuild.


Because some communities had been cut off, officials were dropping food and relief supplies to residents. As floodwaters recede, authorities are becoming concerned about the spread of disease.

Stampede deaths


Late Thursday, 22 people, including several children, were killed in a stampede prompted by rumors of a collapsed dam from the flooding, according to officials and Indian media reports.


Ten people were arrested on suspicion of rumor-mongering in that incident. Among other rumors were that a tsunami was coming to the coastal city and that a super cyclone was on the way.


State officials were asking residents of India's largest city to stay in their homes as much as possible, as the city tries to recover from massive flooding.


Many people drowned or were killed in the landslides, government officials said. Some were trapped in cars and others were electrocuted by downed power lines.


P.S. Pasricha, director-general of police in Maharashtra state, where Mumbai is located, described the situation as "very difficult."


He said that while the floodwaters had started to recede in Mumbai, the state government was finding it difficult to assess the situation in other districts.

Clearer picture emerging


On Thursday, authorities said some communication and transportation links were working again, and a clearer picture of the devastation was beginning to emerge.


Helicopters and other means were being used to bring in food and other relief supplies. Residents have been asked to stay off the roads.


The Indian military, including the navy and army, are assisting in the rescue effort.


Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, normally braves heavy rainfall during the three-month monsoon season, but this time the rain was too much.


In 12 hours the city recorded more than half its average annual rainfall, throwing rail and road traffic out of gear. The water had no place to go because the high tide conditions rendered storm drains ineffective.


The city, which is home to more than 15 million people and is the commercial and financial hub of India, has come to a virtual halt.


"Most places in India don't receive this kind of rainfall in a year. This is the highest ever recorded in India's history," R.V. Sharma, director of the meteorological department in Mumbai, told The Associated Press.


India's previous heaviest rainfall, recorded at Cherrapunji in the northeastern Meghalaya state -- one of the rainiest places on Earth -- was 33 inches (830 millimeters) on July 12, 1910, Sharma said.


Home Minister Shivraj Patil told India's parliament that 633 people had died in villages hit by the heavy seasonal rains that had washed away tens of thousands of homes, along with roads, railway tracks and bridges.



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