Rajat Sharma

Shadow of death: Landslides, flood in Maharashtra

akb0710The shadow of death is hovering over Raigad, Ratnagiri and Satara districts of Maharashtra, where 129 people have died during the past 48 hours due to landslides and flood. Landslides in the Western ghats have badly damaged roads and buildings, flood water has swept through many villages, towns and cities causing havoc.
In several parts, entire villages have turned into rubble due to landslides from the hills. With power supply disconnected, there is complete breakdown of communication. The met department has predicted continuous rains for the next three days. Rescue teams are finding it difficult to reach the affected areas. India TV reporters have reached Ratnagiri, Raigad and Satara to report on the devastation caused due to nature’s fury.
The worst hit is Konkan region, the pride of Western Ghats because of its natural beauty. This region today is witnessing widespread devastation caused due to landslides and continuous rains for 48 hours. 35 houses were turned to rubble because of landslide in Talai village killing 49 people. Till now, 38 bodies have been recovered. Thirty five more are reported to be trapped in the rubble. In Poladpur area of Raigad, 11 people died due to landslide, while 13 died in Satara district. Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar requested Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to send army jawans for rescue and relief operations. Navy and Air Force personnel are also helping in rescue efforts. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced release of ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh to families of those killed and Rs 50,000 to those seriously injured.
While rescue operations are going on a war footing, incessant rain is causing obstacles. The entire town of Chiplun has been submerged in eight to ten feet deep water. Though water has started receding after rains stopped, but the flood has caused large scale havoc in its wake. India TV reporter Rajesh Singh who visited Chiplun on Friday sent visuals of scores of cars lying upturned in water, and trucks and tempos stuck in drains. Many of the cars were lying one upon another. Our reporter had to walk several kilometres through the town because of broken roads, power cut and lack of communication. Chiplun is the commercial hub of Konkan region. It attracts hundreds of tourists daily. The original place of Maharashtra’s Chitpavan Brahmin community, this town is known as the Goa of Maharashtra for its scenic beauty. Now, the town lies in ruins. Palatial bungalows built on the Ghats have been devastated due to incessant rain, flood and landslides.
Konkan region is not new to rains. Though it is only 10 per cent of Maharashtra’s land area, it gets 46 per cent of rains during monsoon. Six big dams have been built in this region, and since the Sahyadri hills are closer to the Arabian sea, this region faces the full brunt when monsoon clouds descend from the sea.
B. N. Patil, who took over as Collector of Ratnagiri only 15 days ago, describes this as man made disaster. He said, the town of Chiplun is located on the banks of river Vashishta and there is Kolkewadi dam nearby. In their greed for money and real estate, people resorted to illegal constructions even on the river bed. As a result, the flow of Vashishta river was blocked at several points leading to flood inside the town. Due to heavy rains, the four gates of Kolkewadi dam had to be opened to release excess water causing more flood. Patil says, he would take action against illegal constructions on river bed once the present crisis is over. On Friday came news of the death of 8 Covid-19 patients inside a hospital in Chiplun. They were on ventilators and there was no electricity. Twelve Covid patients were saved by local youths.
Landslides also occurred in Satara and Kolhapur districts killing 14 people. Many were missing and are probably lying trapped under the rubble. Several buildings were turned to rubble when a major landslide occurred in Ambeghar near Patan in Satara district. NDRF rescue team had a tough time reaching the spots due to roads blocked by rubble. 640 mm rain was recorded near Koyna dam on Friday.
The overall scene is disheartening. Twelve districts of Maharashtra have been badly hit by rains, flood and landslides. If rains continues for the next three days, it will cause more havoc. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keeping a close watch on the situation. On Friday, he spoke to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray about rescue and relief operations.
The government is trying its best to provide food and water for the victims who have been rendered homeless. People living in landslide prone areas are being evacuated to safer places. The Centre is rendering all help possible to provide relief to the people of Maharashtra. Let us pray that the people of the state are saved from this disaster. It is our duty to render all help to the victims of landslides and flood in Maharashtra.

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