Jun 11, 2008

US Embassy puts up a Mumbai monsoon warning

Travel advisories issued by the US government to its globe-trotting citizens are usually concerned with terrorist attacks or the outbreak of a deadly virus. However, this time around it’s the monsoon in Mumbai and the BMC’s handling of it that have got Uncle Sam worked up. A warning issued on Monday and posted on the website of the US consulate in Mumbai tells its citizens that the “monsoon has arrived in western India and Mumbai is experiencing the season’s storms’’. They are also reminded of the 26/7 (2005) deluge and told that it had led to a “heavy loss of life’’.

American citizens in Mumbai have been asked to follow “commonsense precautions’’, like avoiding low-lying areas that appear to be flooded. They are warned that BMC workers are likely to open manhole covers on roads to ease flooding but not to place warning markers around them. “In reduced visibility conditions, you could drive into one of these open manholes’’, they are cautioned.

The travel advisory also lists some of the perils of walking in the city, which most Mumbaikars can only agree with. “Sidewalks are non-existent in some areas or used for other purposes in most parts of the city. It’s possible that you could inadvertently step into an open manhole,’’ it notes.

Civic chief Jairaj Phatak sought to play down its significance. “It’s a normal message that even I would give to my relatives coming to Mumbai from another city. I would tell them to enjoy the monsoon but be careful.’’ As for the open manholes, he again reeled off statistics to say that only ten people had died from falling into open manholes in the last seven years.