1,050 passengers on Mahalaxmi Express rescued amid rain fury  near Mumbai

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MUMBAI, July 27 (PTI): In a multi-agency operation involving the NDRF, Navy, Air Force and Army, all 1,050 passengers on board the Mahalaxmi Express were rescued on Saturday, 17 hours after it got marooned due to floodwaters near Mumbai amid heavy downpour.

Central Railway officials said all the passengers, including nine pregnant women and a one-month-old girl, had been rescued by 3 pm.

The train left Mumbai for Kolhapur in western Maharashtra on Friday night, but could not travel beyond Wangani in Thane district, around 65 km from Mumbai, where it reached in the wee hours of Saturday.

Heavy rains since Friday had caused a flood-like situation in Badlapur and Wangani in Thane district. The Ulhas river near Badlapur breached its banks, leading to water- logging in many areas.

After the train was held up between Badlapur and Wangani, two teams each of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were rushed from Mumbai and Pune with nine boats, an official release said.

The teams reached the spot about 9.40 am even as personnel of the Navy and Indian Air Force were also drafted in for the rescue operation.

Specialist divers of the Navy and two Mi-17 helicopters of the IAF were also pressed into service. Two columns of Army with 130 trained staff carrying food packages, water and rescue material were also deployed.

Many passengers were rescued through inflatable boats of the NDRF, while others were carried on the shoulders of the rescue personnel. Some waded across the flooded tracks on their own.

Passengers held on to hope even as lights had gone out in the train and there was no communication from the railways initially. Mobile phone batteries had died, or poor network made them useless, some passengers said.

Union Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah and Minister of State Nityanand Rai closely monitored the situation, a central government release said.

“Teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Navy, Air Force, Army, Railways and state administration rescued all the passengers,” Shah tweeted. “Kudos to the rescue teams for their exemplary effort,” he said.

Chief spokesperson of the Central Railway Sunil Udasi said a special train with 19 coaches will leave from Kalyan to Kolhapur, carrying passengers of the stranded train.

Officials involved in the rescue operation said nine pregnant women and a one-month-old baby girl among the passengers were also safe.

Local villagers also helped in the rescue effort, said Additional Commissioner of Police, Kalyan, Datta Karale.

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