When photographs of floods in Chiplun started doing the rounds on social media on Wednesday morning, there was shock and dismay over the extent of damage that it would have cause to the the lives of people living in this small city.
One photograph showed a bus depot completely submerged in the water. Only roofs of handful of buses could be seen. This picture created havoc across Maharashtra. Chiplun, a tiny town in Ratnagiri district in the Konkan region created serious tension for the entire state machinery for the next two days.
Shakuntala Borkar, 57, who is originally from Chiplun, said: "I have never seen such continuous rains and massive flooding in my entire life. Nobody in our area has. My husband and I went on the roof and waited for five hours for help to arrive. One local relief boat saw us struggling and came to our rescue."
"This is like a second life for us," said her husband, Vijay.
What the Borkar couple is left with is just their life. Everything in their house has been washed away -- TV, fridge, clothes, beds, everything. Even a motorcycle washed away for some 500 meters. They will have to start their life from scratch, again.
"We are witnessing the loss now while doing relief work. Not a single house in Chiplun is unaffected. People don't have water to drink and clothes to wear. Nothing," said Pankaj Dalavi, a flood relief volunteer from neighbouring Guhagar tehsil.
Chiplun is second most populous city in Ratnagiri district, with a population of more than 1,50,000 people. It is located near a hill in the Sahyadri range and on the banks of Vashishthi river. Incessant rains in the Sahyadri range was the main reason for this flood, as a result of which Vashishthi started overflowing. Water spread across the city on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
Hanif Parkar, a resident of Mirjoli village in Chiplun, said he saw the city submerging into the river. "I was on duty as a security guard in a complex. At night, the water started flooding the roads. I called the complex owner to tell him that something unusual was happening. Later, three four shop owners in our complex came out. In next four hours, water had risen almost six feet in our complex," he said.
Madhuri Jadhav, a primary school teacher, was alone at home on Tuesday night. Her husband had gone to Ratnagiri. Once the water started rising, her neighbour asked her to leave her home and come to the roof in a nearby building. "We saw our home submerging in the water and couldn't do anything. Somehow, I saved some money and a few clothes before climbing on to the roof of a nearby building," she said.
Chiplun now needs immediate financial assistance to return to normalcy.
"All shops went under water. Nothing is saved. The state government should announce a special package," said local MLA Shekhar Nikam, adding that the "government should at least give Rs 500 crore to help people”.
Chiplun is not the only city hit by the rains and floods. Mahad, a city in neighbouring Raigad district, was also under water for more than 35 hours. It is also close to the Sahyadri range, on the banks of mighty river Savitri, and is an industrial town with a small chemical industrial zone.
Sudha Shah, 75, who stays alone in Mahad city has been missing for 30 hours. Her son, Satish who stays in Mumbai, is trying hard to locate her. When the water receded, a neighbour went to find her and found her stuck on the upper floor of her house.
"She is in shock. She was alone and somehow saved herself by reaching near the roof. She was without food and water for almost 30 hours," said Satish.
The tragedy unfolded by the flood has shocked people across the Konkan region, especially in Mahad and Chiplun, which have borne the brunt.
"Konkan has been witnessing flood or storms almost every year. The state government should come up with a policy to address these. There should be a proper mechanism to make people aware, to transport people from one location to another and also educate them about disaster management," said Rajan Indulkar, a social activist in Chiplun.
Apart from Konkan, Western Maharashtra and part of Vidarbha has also been badly affected by heavy rains. A total of 153 persons have died till now and 49 are missing.
The water level is still high in Sangli and Kolhapur districts. After Raigad, Satara district has seen more incidents of landslides. A total of 37 persons in Satara have died so far. More than 1,50,000 people across these two regions - Western Maharashtra and Konkan - have been taken to temporary shelters.
In Vidarbha, Akola and Amravati are the most affected districts. There are reports in local newspaper that tribals in Melghat area of Satpuda hills are greatly affected due to heavy rains. People in Gadchiroli are Gondia too are facing heavy rains since the past two days.
Experts point out that Odisha and Andhra Pradesh used to face storms and incessant rains in coastal areas regularly and have somehow developed a mechanism to overcome e huge losses due to these calamities. The Maharashtra government needs to study those models, else such calamities could break the backbone of the Konkan region forever, they say.