In daring operation, 1,050 rescued from marooned train

In daring operation, 1,050 rescued from marooned train

An aerial view shows a stranded Mahalaxmi Express near Badlapur in Thane district of Maharashtra on Saturday. REUTERS

Nearly 1,050 people were rescued from the stranded Mahalaxmi Express in Vangani in Thane district of Maharashtra in a flawless multi-agency operation on Saturday.

The Kalyan-Ulhasnagar-Badlapur belt of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region received heavy rain — between 280 to 330 mm — over Friday and Saturday.

This led to flooding of the Ulhas river which trapped the Mumbai-Kolhapur Mahalaxmi Express between Badlapur and Vangani stations on the Central Railway at 10 pm.

Vangani is 70 km from central Mumbai.

The water nearly reached the train’s footboard, triggering panic among passengers who took to social media to express their ordeal.

Teams of the National Disaster Response Force, two columns of the Army, fire brigade units, eight teams of Navy and three helicopters were involved in the operations that lasted 17 hours.

“Happy to inform that all passengers have been evacuated successfully,” Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said after the rescue.

The rescued include nine pregnant women — one of whom went into labour — senior citizens, infants and children and some physically-challenged passengers.

As many as 37 doctors were part of the rescue teams. 

17-hr operation

Teams of the National Disaster Response Force, two columns of the Army, fire brigade units, eight teams of Navy and three helicopters were involved in the operations that lasted 17 hours.

“Happy to inform that all passengers have been evacuated successfully,” Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said after the rescue.

The rescued include nine pregnant women — one of whom went into labour — senior citizens, infants and children and some physically-challenged passengers.

As many as 37 doctors were part of the rescue teams. 

Teams of the Thane police reached the train nearly seven to eight km from Badlapur station by 9 am.

“We are stranded, we were helpless, a snake also sneaked into our compartment, we were scared,” said Asha Barode, a passenger. “We ran out if drinking water,” said Dilip More another passenger.

A woman passenger, Pradnya, posted a video with her child showing she was stranded. A passenger also requested the police to send life-jackets.

Once the police team arrived, an officer announced on the megaphone that help was on the way and advised them not to venture out.

By 10 am, NDRF teams in orange outfits reached the train, much to the relief of stranded passengers.

“Soon helicopters started hovering around, it was a sign that help was on way... It came as a relief,” said digital journalist Vivek Bhavsar.

Passengers were helped onto inflatable boats and then taken to higher ground from where they reached a relief centre by road.

The rescue operations concluded at 4 pm. “We have rescued 1,050 people,” CR spokesperson Sunil Udasi said.

Arrangements were made for their onward journey.

Writer Madhavi Gharpure, a prominent Marathi writer famous for the film 'Shwaas', was one of the passengers. “I must thank the rescue teams and locals,” she said.

However, several passengers complained against the railway administration for lack of information.

“I walked, no one from the railways helped us,” said Shamshad Kokane. “We were sitting in the dark throughout the night, no information was forthcoming,” one of them said. Some of the passengers who had dozed off realised in the morning that they were stranded.

Questions were raised as to why the train was not stopped but proceeded when it was known that tracks were inundated.