All the 700 passengers on board the stranded Mahalaxmi Express between Badlapur and Vangani station near Mumbai were rescued in a multi-agency operation nearly 17 hours after the train was stranded on Saturday due to flooding on tracks following heavy rains.
Central Railway (CR) officials said all the passengers, including nine pregnant women, were rescued by 3 pm.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah praised the rescue teams and said the Centre was closely monitoring the situation.
Chief spokesperson of the CR Sunil Udasi said all of them were taken to a safe spot. "A special train with 19 coaches will leave from Kalyan to Kolhapur with the affected passengers of the Mahalaxmi Express," Udasi said.
The Indian Air Force (IAF), Navy, Army, Railway Protection Force, Mumbai police and NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) were pressed into action.
Ambulances with 37 doctors including a gynaecologist were deployed for an emergency.
All necessary arrangements like food, transportation, and shelter have been made at Sahyadri Mangal Karayalay. Fourteen buses and three tempos arranged are for further movement.
In an unprecedented measure, the Maharashtra government requested the defence officials to arrange airlift of passengers.
The train was held up 100 kilometres away from Mumbai, since 3 AM today due to incessant rainfall, according to a passenger on board.
The train had left Mumbai for Kolhapur on Friday night, but could not travel beyond Vangani, where it reached in the wee hours Saturday.
“Due to a raging Ulhas river, the Mahalaxmi Express train got stuck at Chamtoli within the limits of Badlapur due to flooded tracks. The passengers were safe, but the only concern was a rise in water level on the tracks,” Resident Deputy Collector (Thane) Shivaji Patil said, according to media reports.
The passengers spent the night in darkness, unaware of the peril around them. As morning arrived, the real fear came alive as well. The water has started entering the coaches. “That was the scariest part during the entire episode,” shared Madhuri Gharpure, scriptwriter of Marathi movie Shwas, who was on her way to Kolhapur for a lecture.
An agitated passenger raised a question over the decision to take the train to a spot near the swelling river amid heavy rains in the night. “Due to heavy rains the train had halted at Badlapur station for a long time before it moved on and got stranded due to waterlogging on tracks,” the passenger complained.
Heavy rains lashed Mumbai, leading to traffic snarls and water-logging at several major junctions. Vehicles were seen wading through the waterlogged streets of Sion, Chembur, Gandhi Market at snail's pace due to heavy traffic jam.
Air services were hit leading to cancellation of 11 flights and diversion of nine incoming aircraft to nearby airports on Saturday, an official said. Rail services too have been hampered by the intermittent rains.
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Mumbai will continue to receive heavy rains till July 29 with the minimum and maximum temperatures hovering around 24 degree Celsius and 30 degree Celsius, respectively.
The Disaster Helpline Number is 1916.
(With online desk inputs)