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7.29.2005

India gets 37 inches of rain in 24 hours!!

Indian monsoon deaths near 900 after stampede, bodies dug from landslide



MUMBAI - Deaths from India's record monsoon have climbed to near 900, as rescuers unearthed more bodies from landslides and residents of a Mumbai shantytown stampeded on rumours of storm-created tsunamis.

"We are now confirming that the number of dead in Mumbai is 370," said A. N. Roy, police chief of the western commercial hub.

The figure included 18 killed in the overnight stampede, 74 bodies dug out by rescuers from a landslide that engulfed houses in Mumbai's Sakinaka area and five other flood-linked deaths, Roy said, updating earlier tolls.

At least 513 people have been killed elsewhere in Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, according to B.M. Kulkarni, of the state police, taking the total number of confirmed deaths to 883.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Amitabh Gupta said more than 50 people were injured in the stampede, which followed false reports that a wall of water was about to swamp the area -- variously from a burst dam or a tsunami.

"It was just a rumour and people believed it and they started running out of their homes through the narrow alleys," Gupta told AFP. "It was pitch dark as there was no electricity and a stampede followed.

"Police present at the scene made repeated appeals, which were ignored by the residents. The sea is just a kilometre (half a mile) away and some heard there was a tsunami," he said.

Police chief Roy said 17 people were detained "for spreading tsunami rumours."

Hospital officials said 11 of the 18 dead in the stampede were women and one was a three-year-old girl.

Arjun Periswamy, who lives in the slums as a daily labourer, said he watched the stampede in horror from his rooftop.

"All I could gather was there was an emergency and people started running. I shouted loud to my relatives below not to get out of the house. But my aunt and her daughter ran out and died in the stampede," he said.

More than 300 relatives of the dead and injured gathered outside a local hospital waiting to hear from doctors.

Chandrasekhar Prajapati, another survivor of the stampede, said he heard shouts of "run, run, water is coming."

"It has been raining heavily for the last couple of days. So everybody believed it," he said.

The gushing waters damaged the overstretched sewerage system and littered the streets of Mumbai with rotting vegetables, plastic bags and other garbage.

Strong winds accompanying the rains, which continued to hit Mumbai Friday, tossed billboards on to the roads and toppled power lines.

Susheela Ayre, a resident of the suburb of Thane said there had been no drinking water since Wednesday. [...]

The city's weather bureau said Mumbai received 944.2 millimeters (37.1 inches) of rainfall in a 24-hour period ending mid-morning Wednesday, the most rainfall ever recorded in a single day in India.

The annual monsoon rains that sweep the subcontinent from June to September routinely kill hundreds of people in India and cause widespread devastation.