Thane। Mahalaxmi Express held up between Badlapur and Wangani with around 1500 Passengers. The Indian Air Force, Navy, Army and the NDRF launched a massive aerial and surface operation to rescue the stranded passengers on the flooded railway tracks.
Following an SOS from the Maharashtra government to the Defence authorities, at least two helicopters, including a Seaking and a MI17, with relief material and personnel were dispatched from Mumbai to the site.
Simultaneously, teams of the NDRF reached the train from Badlapur, around 7 kms away in inflatable rubber boats and started extracting the passengers from the train, which left Mumbai for Kolhapur on Friday around 8 p.m.
The teams, which included divers with special equipment and medical aid, managed to rescue around 120 passengers, including women, children and toddlers, by noon though work was hampered due to continuing heavy rain.
Officials said it may take several hours to complete the rescue operation depending on the rain and the flood waters.
The IAF/NDRF teams also brought to safety a group of around seven passengers, who got down from the train to start walking towards Badlapur station but found themselves stuck in the swirling flood waters, running between 3-6 feet, for over two hours until some local villagers threw ropes at them.
Rail and Flight operations affected
Torrential rain since the past three days in Mumbai, Palghar, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri, and in some areas over 100 mm, have led to chaos on the roads, partially hitting rail operations and affecting around two dozen flights at the Mumbai Airport in the past 24 hours.
The government response came after hundreds of panicking, starving and thirsting passengers on the Mumbai-Kolhapur train started sending out videos appealing for help on the social media videos as the water levels continued to rise around the train.
They said they had no drinking water or food since nearly 15 hours and no escape route as the train was practically cut off with five-six feet water on all sides.
The towns of Badlapur, Ulhasnagar, Vangani were practically underwater since early today as heavy rain lashed the region, flooding local rivers and other water bodies.
The Central Railway (CR) warned the Mahalaxmi Express passengers against stepping out of the trains in view of the dangerous water levels outside and requested them to wait for help which was on the way.
The CR added that a relief train has been stationed at Badlapur to ferry the passengers, along with food, water and medical supplies, besides making arrangements to take the passengers onward to Kolhapur.