Mumbai rains and Houston's Hurricane Harvey: How the two cities manage natural disasters

Thousands of miles away from Mumbai, Houston in Texas, US faced a somewhat similar situation to the one experienced by the former on Tuesday after heavy rains overwhelmed India's financial capital, its infrastructure and brought the city to its knees.

 Mumbai rains and Houstons Hurricane Harvey: How the two cities manage natural disasters

Buses ply waterlogged streets in Mumbai on Tuesday.PTI

In Houston, Hurricane Harvey paralysed the fourth most populous city of the United States resulting in the death of at least 30 people and leaving thousands of people stranded and homeless.

However, the biggest difference between the two natural disasters (aside, obviously, from the scale) was the way the administration of the two countries reacted to it. As Harvey continued to pound southern Texas and parts of Louisiana, the US military — including the Coast Guard and National Guard units from five states committed resources to help with rescue efforts, reported The Washington Post.

Texas governor Gregg Abbott on Monday announced the ordering of the entire Texas National Guard — about 12,000 troops — to assist those affected by the storm.

Apart from that, 30,000 National Guard and active duty troops were on standby to assist overwhelmed Texas authorities.

Wisened by the experience of Hurricane Katrina, the administration pressed in helicopters that landed near flooded freeways and rescued stranded people. Further, as AP pointed out, "(A)irboats buzzed across submerged neighbourhoods and high-water vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections".

According to the website, a team of volunteers joined rescue workers and managed to pull several people out from their houses to safer areas.

Thousands of affected people flocked to convention centres-turned-emergency shelters to spend the difficult days there. The city’s largest shelter was overflowing when the mayor announced plans to create space for thousands of extra people by opening two and possibly three more mega-shelters.

By Tuesday when the situation had started to improve and people began returning to their homes, Houston's mayor imposed a night time curfew in the city to prevent looting of homes hit by the hurricane.

According to some reports, the city is still not out of the woods, but the city administration is confident of coping with further rainfall.

In Mumbai, however, a spell of eight hours of rain showed very little has changed since the great deluge of 2005, and the city administration was once again caught napping.

According to Mumbai Mirror, there was a warning from the Indian Meteorological Department office predicting very heavy rains coupled with high tides. Despite the warning, there was no advance planning; even schools were not closed or even forewarned.

Other emergency measures that the report suggested like keeping additional buses ready and speaking with private cab operators to provide services in case of a possible downpour were also not explored. As for shelters, it was mainly citizens and non-government entities who came to the rescue of stranded Mumbaikars.

The administration even failed to provide essential supplies of milk, vegetables, and bread available.

The city sees heavy rains almost every year, with a few downpours that result in near-flood-like situations. Despite that no permanent measures seem to be on place for the situation.

According to another article of Mumbai Mirror, twelve years after the 26 July deluge, and spending thousands of crores on pumping stations, cleaning of storm water drains, the BMC still doesn’t know why Mumbai suffers in every monsoon.

After the Tuesday deluge, when the BMC came under attack from several quarters the municipal body denied its failure, calling the situation “exceptional”, even though the BMC, ahead of the monsoon, had promised no water-logging in the city this year.

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Updated Date: Aug 30, 2017 20:43:55 IST