Maharashtra went into distress mode last week due to incessant and heavy rains lashing many parts of the state through most of the week. The worst tragedy was the late night collapse of the 100-year-old Mahad-Poladpur bridge over river Savitri in Raigad district on 2 August. Many hill stations and tourist destinations have been shut down in the state as a precautionary measure. Structural audits of some of the old bridges have been reordered. Mumbai, too, witnessed heavy rainfall. Train stations and low-lying areas experienced flooding, creating misery for those travelling by road. Train services had to be discontinued for some time on Friday. This left thousands of passengers including office-goers stranded.
Air traffic was affected due to poor visibility. In other parts of Maharashtra too, continuous rainfall led to filling up of dams. “Continuous discharge of water due to heavy rains, from upstream dams in Nashik, Ahmednagar, have led to a rise in water levels. Heavy rains have led to a rise in water level in Jayakwadi reservoir in Marathwada region. Nearby villages have been inundated,” local reports stated.
Nashik faced floods due to heavy rainfall and the opening of Gangapur dam’s doors. The flood situation took three lives. Many parts of the city were submerged in the water. NDRF teams were deployed to carry out rescue operations. The Pune-Lavasa road has been closed due to landslides. Heavy rainfall has also affected other tourist hotspots like Mahabaleshwar, Lonavala, Sinhagad. Pune’s Bhide bridge was closed for traffic after cracks were found on it. The structural audit of some old bridges has been ordered by the state administration. Eknath Shinde, Guardian Minister of Thane district, ordered the immediate structural audits of all the bridges in Thane district.
In one of the worst accidents in Maharashtra, an old bridge over Savitri caved in, taking with it several vehicles. The vehicles plunged into the raging waters of Savitri in Mahad at midnight between Tuesday and Wednesday. An employee of a transport company who witnessed the vehicles disappear from the bridge, raised an alarm and ran to stop other vehicles from heading towards that direction. His presence of mind stopped a graver tragedy. “I had my dinner, and I was talking to my family on phone. As I came near the window, I saw vehicles’ headlights disappear half-way on the bridge. So I ran along with another person,” he told local reporters. By that time, some vehicles had a narrow escape after the drivers decided to turn back from the bridge sensing something was wrong. At the time of the accident, it was pitch dark and it was raining heavily.
Nearly 10 vehicles are feared to have drowned in the river. The ferocity of the river can be imagined by the fact that one of the dead bodies were found 120 km from the accident spot. The vehicles, including two state transport buses, are still being traced by incessantly-working teams of Indian Air Force, Coast Guard, National Disaster Response Force, district administration and local divers. The state has announced ex-gratia help of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the deceased.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister has announced a judicial inquiry into the matter. “We have deputed a team of three experts from IIT, Mumbai for preliminary study. This team has already begun its work,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said. The team includes water expert Jyoti Prakash, structural expert Jangid, and geothermal expert V.S. Vasudevan.
The issue is grave because the bridge was cleared and deemed “road-fit” in a structural audit conducted two months ago. The British government had written to the Maharashtra government two years ago declaring that the bridge’s safety can no more be guaranteed. It was constructed by the British nearly 100 years ago. Local reports have said that there are 35 such old British-period bridges on the Mumbai-Goa “killer road”. The highway has been dubbed as a killer road since the two-laned narrow road has gutted many lives in horrid accidents for years now.