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Heavy rains hamper India relief work, official says death toll will reach 1,000

Monday, August 1, 2005

BOMBAY, India -- Authorities warned residents to remain at home Sunday after heavy rains fell again across Bombay and surrounding areas hammered last week by devastating floods, with more than 900 people now reported dead.

Cleanup efforts and the distribution of food supplies to needy residents were slowed by the renewed monsoon rains, which began early Sunday. Aviation officials ordered the city's airports -- the busiest in the country -- closed for seven hours because of poor visibility.

Officials, meanwhile, said the death toll from the recent rains could reach 1,000.

The recovery over the weekend of more than 100 bodies pushed the official death toll to 910. On Sunday, officials said more bodies were likely to be recovered from flood-devastated districts.

"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 efforts to pull out the remaining bodies were hampered by incessant rainfall and mounds of debris, boulders and mud tangled into the remains of homes.

"The rains are making retrieval difficult," Vatsa said.

With renewed rains, Bombay police asked people to stay home due to rising water levels. The new storms come five days after crippling rains pounded western India -- reaching a record 37 inches in suburban Bombay.

"We're asking people to travel only if essential," said Bombay's police chief A.N. Roy. Schools were ordered closed in Bombay and three other districts due to flooding.

Electricity was gradually restored to many northern Bombay neighborhoods after angry demonstrators blocked traffic Sunday, demanding restoration of clean drinking water, power and the cleanup of garbage and decomposing animal carcasses.

The government issued orders to stop all construction in the city so trucks could be used to transport garbage, debris and animal carcasses, mostly of cattle that can be found wandering in most Indian cities.

Some 25,000 sheep and goats and 2,500 buffaloes drowned in Bombay, officials said.

Despite renewed warnings from authorities to evacuate, residents in shanties built into small, crumbling hills in the city's northern neighborhoods say they have no place to go.


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