Fresh flood fears for Bombay as death toll rises

 

Indian authorities warned residents to stay at home after new heavy rains pounded Bombay and the surrounding state, as the official death toll from last week's record-breaking monsoon rains hit 910.

The new rains, which began early yesterday, badly hampered clean-up efforts and the distribution of food to needy residents.

Five days after crippling rains pounded western India - reaching a record 37 inches in 24 hours in suburban Bombay - soldiers, civil defence teams and aid workers continued to find bodies in the state's worst-affected districts.

More than 100 more bodies were recovered over the weekend, pushing the official death toll to 910. Officials said more bodies were likely to be recovered from the flood-devastated Raigad district.

"The bodies are still coming out. There will be another 100 or so," said K Vatsa, state rehabilitation secretary. "The toll will definitely be around 1,000."

But incessant rain and mounds of debris, boulders and mud mixed with the remains of people's homes were making it difficult to retrieve the remaining bodies.

As many as 421 people were killed in Bombay alone - most of them drowned, buried by landslides, or electrocuted.

Civic authorities deployed health workers in the city's suburbs to distribute medicines and disinfectants to guard against the spread of waterborne diseases.

As new rain blanketed the city, Bombay police issued an alert cautioning people to stay home due to rising water levels.

"We're asking people to travel only if essential," said Bombay police chief A N Roy.

Schools were ordered to remain closed in Bombay and three other districts due to flooding in low-lying areas.

Despite yesterday's rain, electricity was gradually being restored to many northern Bombay neighbourhoods a day after angry demonstrators blocked traffic demanding restoration of tap water, power and the clean-up of rubbish and decomposing animal carcasses.