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Environment

Mumbai's Floods: A Perfect Storm of Poor Planning

New construction, shoddy drainage, and sluggish action from officials conspire to create deadly conditions during monsoon season.
Pedestrians wait to cross a flooded street in Mumbai during heavy rains in June 2015.
Pedestrians wait to cross a flooded street in Mumbai during heavy rains in June 2015.Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

By the time the downpour started on August 29, many Mumbaikars had already left their homes for work or school. A savvy few among them may have checked their social media updates or news reports in the morning, but nothing rang alarm bells. Some local celebrities were tweeting about the possibility of high rainfall that morning, but the Regional Meteorological Centre in Mumbai chose not to send out any formal warnings. Rain fell heavily—up to 12 inches within nine hours in some areas. It coincided with high tide flowing into the city, causing abject misery for residents and bringing India’s financial capital to its knees.

As a result of the severe flooding, thousands were stranded on the streets or at schools and workplaces. Rising water levels led to vehicles getting stuck or submerged. Local train services were cancelled. Seven bodies were recovered just that day; over the next three days, the death toll rose to 20. A prominent doctor fell into an open manhole, and two 2-year-olds died in landslides near their homes.