July 31, 2005

New Bombay flood alert, toll nears 1,000

By Atul Prakash

BOMBAY (Reuters) - Police urged millions of Bombay
residents to stay at home as heavy rains brought more flooding
to India's financial hub on Sunday and relief officials said
the death toll in the region could reach 1,000.

Dead bodies and carcasses of animals were still strewn
across parts of Bombay and its suburbs from last week's
flooding, raising fears of disease, TV and officials said.

"I hope there is no epidemic," Maharashtra relief
commissioner Krishna Vatsa said.

The monsoon rains in the region have been the heaviest for
nearly a century, and on Sunday western India was drenched

"We are appealing to people not to travel unless it is
absolutely necessary," Police Commissioner A.N. Roy told
Reuters. "Already, the rains are going on and there is a
forecast of further heavy rainfall."

Officials said fatalities in the western state of
Maharashtra, including Bombay, were rising as more bodies were
being dug out from villages flattened by landslides south of

In Raigarh district, 150 km south of Bombay, about 200 are
dead or missing. At least 899 confirmed deaths have been
reported in the state, police said.

"The death toll in Raigarh is likely to go up by another
100 or so because more dead bodies are coming up. It (the
total) may touch around 1,000, including about 400 deaths in
Bombay," said Vatsa.

"It's raining and this will hamper the relief distribution
and search operations."


In Bombay alone, hundreds have died in the city of over 15
million since Tuesday due to landslides, drowning,
electrocution in flooded streets and even by suffocating in
their cars as they waited out the rains for many hours.

There have been angry protests in several areas of the city
where thousands have been without electricity and drinking
water supplies since flooding started last Tuesday.

"The infrastructure in the city has collapsed but people
have a very short memory. We seem to forget and forgive and
don't come up with a constructive plan," said Josy John, a
Bombay resident.

"Already roads are in a bad shape and the situation is
going to worsen," said John, who spent a couple of days in his
office following traffic disruptions due to the floods.

Long-distance trains have been canceled for a week, leaving
thousands stranded at railway stations, and flights to and from
Bombay airport, India's busiest, have been canceled or delayed.

"Airlines have a huge backlog of pending flights and
waiting passengers," Indian Airlines spokesman M. Swaminathan

"There is tremendous pressure on airlines."

On Saturday, an Air India Boeing 747 aircraft skidded off
the runway in Bombay while landing from the southern technology
hub of Bangalore in heavy rain, blocking operations at the

Trains services in the region have also been severely
disrupted. "There has been extensive damage to tracks," Sunil
Jain, a railway spokesman, said.

Monsoon flooding kills hundreds every year in India and
covers huge swathes of land in the densely-populated nation,
home to hundreds of rivers.

(Additional reporting by Kamil Zaheer in NEW DELHI)