Chances of finding survivors fade in India monsoons; death toll reaches 749 |

Chances of finding survivors fade in India monsoons; death toll reaches 749

BOMBAY, India – Their faces covered with masks against the stench, rescuers found dozens more bodies in flood-ravaged Bombay neighborhoods and outlying villages Friday, pushing the death toll to 749 from record monsoon rains in India.Relief workers used spades to search for survivors as cranes lifted twisted wooden and tin debris. Navy divers used inflatable rafts to reach areas cut off by water, while soldiers and civil defense workers trudged to outlying villages, digging in search of the living and the dead.Three days after the deluge, the Bombay Stock Exchange reopened and mobile phone services were restored, but some neighborhoods remained without electricity.The rescuers searched vast areas of Maharashtra state, battered by the deadly rains, said N. Nayar, an official at the government’s emergency control room in Bombay, India’s financial hub and the worst-hit area.”The death toll is 749 now, including 376 in Bombay alone,” said M. Deshpande, assistant director at the control room.Most deaths were caused by collapsing walls, drownings and electrocutions, he said.Hopes of finding survivors dimmed.In the northern Bombay suburb of Saki Naka, relief workers and survivors searched the ruins of a shantytown crushed when a water-soaked hill collapsed on top of it. At least 110 people were killed and more than 45 others were missing and presumed dead.”There is so much debris around. I don’t think anyone can still be alive under all this,” said aid worker Antar Gulab standing in front of mounds of mud and boulders.The landslides wiped out entire families in the shantytown. “My neighbors – all eight of them are dead,” said Shakeel Nabi.Every monsoon, police and civic workers caution shanty dwellers to move out, but warning are not heeded. “Where do we go? What other place do we have?” asked Nabi, who was living with his wife and two children in the street after their shanty was destroyed.Half of Bombay’s 16 million population lives in shanties that often share boundary walls with swanky, residential apartment blocks.An unprecedented deluge of 37 inches of rain on Tuesday paralyzed Maharashtra state’s communication and transport network. On Friday,trains and buses ran again in the country’s financial capital, and cars filled roads as the stock market reopened. Mobile phone networks buzzed with traffic, although land phone lines in some areas remained out of order.At least 18 people, including seven children, died in a stampede in a Bombay shantytown on Thursday night after rumors of a burst dam and a tsunami.Another rumor Friday of an approaching cyclone jolted employers in Nariman Point, where most companies have their headquarters. They sent workers home early.Police arrested 10 men for spreading rumors, said A.N. Roy, the city’s police chief.”Mischief mongers will be dealt with strictly. Stay calm. Don’t listen to rumors,” Roy said in messages on television and radio.Vail, Colorado

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