It was indeed like a nightmare for the passengers of Mahalaxmi Express to see a moribund situation in their surroundings after the train was stranded near Vangani in Thane district due to flooding on tracks following heavy rains. However, the teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Navy, Air Force, Army Railways and state administration brought all the passengers out of the awful trap.
Two military helicopters and six boats of NDRF were sent to rescue stranded people as the heavy downpour paralyzed the city and its surrounding areas.
The exemplary efforts of all the rescue teams are highly appreciated that they protected a big disaster to take place here in Mumbai just after the flood-hit severely Assam and Bihar leading excessive loss of lives and property.
Amongst the passengers were children including a one-month-old baby girl, women, nine of them pregnant, elders and disabled persons. Soon after the train stuck panicky starving and thirsty passengers were seen making appeals for help on mobile video and social media. In the videos, they said they had no drinking water or food for nearly 15 hours.
More so there was no way to get leave as the train was cut off with five to six feet water on all side. Also, railway warned the passengers against stepping out of the stranded train because of the dangerous water level outside and requested them to wait for help.
However, all the 1,050 passengers heaved a sigh of relief when they were evacuated off the train after an eight-hour rescue operation conducted by all rescue teams.
Though the Central Railway (CR) blamed ‘a sudden spell of intense rainfall’, coupled with overflowing of the Ulhas River, for Mahalaxmi getting stuck in overflowing water, here are some striking questions amidst of this hue and cry. Why was the train, with 1,052 people on board, permitted to travel on heavily-flooded tracks? Why did it take hours for the rescue operation to get the underway?
According to the report of Hindustan Times, some passengers complained they were unable to get any information from the Railway’s helplines and social accounts. One passenger said, “The train initially halted at Ambernath railway station for hours as there was waterlogging on the track. We saw commuters walking on the track. If this was the situation, the Railways should have been alerted before resuming the express train. How did they not realize about the water logging?”
I think there must be some action against the officials who are responsible to put more than 1,000 people in such ‘do or die’ situation. One cannot imagine how horrifically passengers have suffered around 15 hours with no water to drink and no food to eat.
What is the most appreciable in this fray are the efforts of rescue teams which made it possible to make all the passengers reach in a safe place! The government of Maharashtra and union ministry of state for home affairs should regard them and honor them for this noble task.
By Faheem Usmani Qasmi
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)