Mumbai Building Collapses

Monsoon downpours have continued to cause havoc across south Asia with rescuers in Mumbai desperately searching for up to 40 people feared trapped in a building which collapsed after days of heavy rains.

The four-storey residential building gave way on Thursday morning in the densely populated area of Bhendi Bazaar, after heavy rains turned roads into rivers.

An official in the control room of India’s national disaster response force said one body had been pulled from the rubble. Four people had been rescued but dozens more are thought to be trapped, he added.

More than 1,200 are feared to have already died in India, Nepal and Bangladesh in some of the worst flooding for years. Forty million people are estimated to have been affected in the region.

The storm reached Pakistan on Thursday, lashing the port city of Karachi. Local TV footage showed streets were already submerged as the country’s meteorological department forecast that the rains would continue for three days in various parts of Sindh province, where authorities closed schools as a precaution.

Windstorms and rains are also expected in the south-western Baluchistan and eastern Punjab provinces. The meteorological department said rains were also expected in the capital, Islamabad, and in Pakistan’s portion of Kashmir.

One third of Bangladesh was believed to be underwater and in Nepal, where 150 people have died, the UN called it the worst flooding in a decade.

The floods have also destroyed or damaged 18,000 schools in thesouth Asia region, meaning that about 1.8 million children cannot go to their classes, Save the Children warned on Thursday.

The charity said that hundreds of thousands of children could fall permanently out of the school system if education was not prioritised in relief efforts.

“We haven’t seen flooding on this scale in years and it’s putting the long-term education of an enormous number of children at great risk. From our experience, the importance of education is often under-valued in humanitarian crises and we simply cannot let this happen again. We cannot go backwards,” said Rafay Hussain, Save the Children’s general manager in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.

“We know that the longer children are out of school following a disaster like this the less likely it is that they’ll ever return. That’s why it’s so important that education is properly funded in this response, to get children back to the classroom as soon as it’s safe to do so and to safeguard their futures.”

Floods have caused devastation in many parts of India. Unprecedented rainfall in Assam in the north east has killed more than 150 people. Some 600 villages are still under water even though the torrential rain began earlier this month.

Rhinos in Assam’s famous Kaziranga nature reserve had to flee to higher ground. “We get flooding every year but I have never seen anything quite like this in my life,” Ashok Baruah, a farmer, told journalists.

In Bihar, the death toll has reached 514 with people still living in makeshift huts days after the flooding started. Across Uttar Pradesh, more than 100 people have died.

In Mumbai, the rain forced nurses and doctors at the busiest hospital in the city to wade through wards knee-high in filthy water to move patients to the first floor. Outside the King Edward Memorial Hospital, a man going to visit his wife who was due to have a caesarean had to wade through flooded streets to reach her. Children swam or paddled down the streets lying on planks of wood.

Victims in the city included a doctor who fell down a manhole and another who died after being trapped in his car while waiting for the flood waters to recede. Others living in the low-lying areas most affected by the flooding were swept away into the sea or died when walls collapsed.

As train services ground to a halt, hundreds of thousands of commuters were stranded, unable to go home.

TV commentators voiced the anger of those caught in the chaos. Well known TV personality Suhel Seth lashed out at the “scoundrels, rogues, villains, rascals, incompetents and useless fools” in the municipal authority for not being better prepared for the annual monsoon flooding. On Tuesday the city had nearly a month’s rainfall.

The deluge brought back memories of the 2005 floods that killed more than 500 people in the city.

“Why does nothing change? Why are we left to fend for ourselves when they had weather forecasts warning them of extremely heavy rainfall?” asked author and columnist Shobhaa De.

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