Mumbai/Thane: The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) along with The Indian Air Force (IAF), Navy and Army launched a massive aerial and surface operation to rescue an estimated 1,500 passengers stranded in the Mahalaxmi Express on the flooded railway tracks at Vangani.
Following an SOS from the Maharashtra government to the Defence authorities, at least two helicopters, including a Seaking and a MI17, with relief material and personnel were despatched from Mumbai to the site. Simultaneously, teams of the NDRF reached the train from Badlapur, around 7 kms away in inflatable rubber boats and started extracting the passengers from the train, which left Mumbai for Kolhapur on Friday around 8 p.m.
The teams, which included divers with special equipment and medical aid, managed to rescue around 120 passengers, including women, children and toddlers, by noon though work was hampered due to continuing heavy rain. Officials said it may take several hours to complete the rescue operation depending on the rain and the flood waters.
The IAF/NDRF teams also brought to safety a group of around seven passengers, who got down from the train to start walking towards Badlapur station but found themselves stuck in the swirling flood waters, running between 3-6 feet, for over two hours until some local villagers threw ropes at them.