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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Third Major Such Incident In Three Months, More Than 1,000 Reported Last Year

Three million litres of water gushed out as two pipelines burst at Thane and Mulund on Thursday, compounding Mumbai's water woes and contributing to imposition of a further 30% cut for the entire city from Thursday evening itself. 

    The BMC had earlier hoped to kill two birds with one stone by taking up simultaneous repairs on the Malad tunnel and Tansa pipeline in 
Bhiwandi on Thursday. While areas from Goregaon to Dahisar went without water all day, hydraulic engineers raced against time to fix the leaks. But hours after the repair work at Malad and Bhiwandi began, two pipelines burst at Mulund and Thane. 
    "At Mulund where the pipe supplies water directly, there will be major problems,'' said an official. "Just an hour after we started work on the Malad tunnel and Tansa 
pipeline, we got calls about this burst. So it added to our work. However, we will try our best to finish work by 11 am Friday,'' said additional municipal commissioner Anil Diggikar. 
    While the pipe that burst at LBS Marg, Mulund (W) was a 72-inch diameter Tansa (East) main, the one that burst at Kapurbawadi, Thane, was its west-side counterpart. Worse, the ground below the Mulund pipeline caved in 10 metres deep and parts of the structure supporting the 
pipeline were washed away by gushing water. Repairs will take about 36 hours. 
    The pipe burst at Mulund led to major flooding in the area near the ESIC Hospital and traffic snarls on the arterial LBS Road, where water was filled up to 2.5 feet. Traffic towards Thane via Sonapur was diverted to Johnson and Johnson Road. 
    Residents had to wade through kneelength water as the area was inundated and water entered a few buildings. Even the fire department reached the spot and consider evacuation. However, the need didn't eventually arise as the water was soon arrested and stopped from gushing out. But two petrol pumps had to be closed down as they were submerged in water. 
    Officials said the pipelines burst because of the pressure that built up while closing the valves. "The water (550 mld) being carried by the two pipelines from Tansa (east and west) to Bhandup complex had been stopped in order to carry out the repairs on the leaks that had developed on various portions of the pipeline. So, while closing the valves slowly along the stretch, in these two areas, water got accumulated. Since it was coming from a height, the gravita
tional force was too strong, because of which the bursts occurred,'' said Vinay Deshpande, BMC's hydraulic engineer. 
    He said the thickness of the almost century-old pipelines had reduced considerably at the base due to corrosion on contact with acidic soil. "Although the top portion is still thick, the bottom has become very fragile. This is why pipes burst so frequently,'' he said. 

LEAKY CAULDRON 
A Right To Information query has revealed that there were as many as 1,031 cases of pipes bursting or leaking in 2009, draining the city of millions of litres of water 
MAJOR DISASTERS: Jan 4, 2010 | A pipeline burst at Nana Chowk due to drilling by MSRDC contractors Oct 13, 2009 | An 80-year-old Tansa main burst at Kalachowkie May 7, 2009 | A 48-inch water main ruptured near Voltas House, Chinchpokli May 4, 2009 | A 3.3m water pipeline burst at Ranga Bazari Chawl, Kalachowkie Sep 25, 2008 | A 48-inch diameter water pipeline burst at Matunga 
To reduce bursts and leaks and strengthen the leak-detection system BMC budget provided for 
2009-10: Rs 63 cr 2010-11: Rs 132.21 cr

FOUNTAIN OF DESPAIR: The pipe burst at Kapurbawadi, Thane

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Firemen use new tech to douse Aarey fire

The city's fire brigade is not taking any chances after a fireman lost his life battling a blaze in a Borivali mall last month. On Sunday evening, when a major fire broke out in the basement of Orchid Mall at Aarey Colony, the fire brigade put into use new techniques to bring the blaze under control. The fire, which broke out in the under-construction mall at around 3.15 pm was extinguished by 9 pm. No one was injured. 

    As part of the new strategy, fire officials drilled holes about two-feet in diameter into the walls of the building, so that the acrid smoke from the fire could escape. The fire was spotted by the watchman, who alerted the fire department. Chief fire officer Uday Tatkare said, "After the Goyal Shopping Centre incident, where fire officer Pradeep Jhagde died while trying to bring the fire under control, we decided to make things easier for our men by knocking down parts of the 9-inch divider walls. This mall has also been better constructed than Goyal, and has more staircases which easily allowed us access to the fire." 
    The mall's owners provided one of their excavators to fire brigade personnel to make the holes. According to firemen, the mall's walls had been more strategically partitioned during its construction. "This time even though the fire was large, we had to use only 12 fire engines instead of the 22 we used during the Goyal incident," Tatkare said.

Fire department drilled holes in the walls of Orchid Mall at Aarey Colony for the acrid smoke to escape

Fire that raged through the wiring duct of a posh 14-storey tower

 is brought under control but completely destroys power and water lines, forcing residents to evacuate the building for an indefinite time

YOGESH SADHWANI 



    In a city that is willing to pay a premium for vertiginous high-rises, this comes as a reality check. 
    Following a fire that shot through its wiring ducts, 84 families in an upscale 14-storey Wadala society have literally been left in the dark with electricity and water lines impaired for an indefinite time. While those in the lower floors have managed to make do with candles and flashlights, those on higher floors have no option but to pack their bags and look for an alternate accommodation till 
the supply lines to the tower is restored. 
    On Sunday morning, Carnation Building in Wadala's Dosti Acre saw a fire that broke out in the wiring duct at around 11 pm. It originated from the 3rd floor and went up to the 14th floor. Some of the residents tried dousing it but could not succeed beyond a point as all the wires had caught fire. The residents used their presence of mind and switched off power to the entire building and at the same time alerted all the occupants. Within minutes fire brigade arrived at the spot and controlled the fire. With all the 84 
flat owners informed that the power supply would be resumed in phases in the next two days, most chose to vacate. 
    While the fire broke out on the third floor, smoke emanating from it spread to higher floors. Newly nominated Member of Parliament and ex vice-chancellor of Mumbai University, Bhalchandra Mungekar's family who owns four flats on the 9th, 13th and 14th floor, had a harrowing experience. While Mungekar who stays on the 9th floor and his son's family, 
who stays on 14th floor managed to get out in time, his daughter staying on the 13th floor was trapped with her family comprising her husband, two kids and a maid. "They were stuck in the house for a while and started choking due to smoke. They were later rescued and rushed to Sion hospital," said Sushil, Mungekar's son. At the time of going to press, the family was out of danger. 
    By 1.30 pm the situation was brought under control and residents trekked back to the flats. However, in the evening a special meeting of the society was called and it was announced that power supply would not be resumed immediately. 
    "After consulting all the departments who checked our meters, we have reached the conclusion that elec
tric supply in common areas and some of the flats will be resumed today (Sunday); for the remaining flats, it will take another day. Lifts will be started in a couple of days as water has entered the ducts and repairs will be possible only after it dries up," said V N Deshmukh, retired IPS officer and chairman of the society. He added that efforts were on to resume water supply in the next few hours. A circular to this effect was issued to all the members. 
    After the circular was sent out, most families started packing their bags to leave. Take the case of the Bardia family that live on the 11th floor. After the fire broke out, Rajesh Bardia ran down with his family. On the way down he alerted quite a few residents. "We have decided to move to my company's guest house. Without electricity there's no point in staying here. Exams are 
round the corner and kids need to study," said Bardia. 
    Hundekaris, who stay on the eighth floor too decided to vacate and stay at their friend's empty house for a week. "Even if water supply is resumed it will be impossible to live without electricity. Moreover, with the lift not functional it would not be possible to carry on with life as usual. My mother-inlaw stays with me and it would be most difficult for her," said Vishpala Hundekari, who says she's lucky to find a friend's empty place to stay for the next one week. Over two dozen families moved out by late evening. 
    There were many who decided to stay put but were quick to move things from their freezers. "Now that we know that power supply will not be resumed for the next few days, I have decided to move all the things from our 
fridge. We will somehow manage with candles," said Vincent D'Silva, who stays on the 12th floor with his 80 year old mother. Most families rushed to neighbouring stores to buy torches and candles. "We have decided to stay back as finding another place to stay is not easy. We will somehow get through this phase as well," said Rosita Haribal, armed with a torch. 
SAVING THE DAY 
Residents of Carnation building are all praise for Ryan Fernandes, a merchant navy officer who lives on the first floor, and Sana Ul Haq Siddiqui, the building's electrician. Quick thinking on the part of the duo curtailed the fire. "When I got to know about it, I immediately took charge of the situation. Everybody was in a state of panic, whereas I am trained to deal with 
such situations," said Ryan, who left behind his wife and two kids in the house to rescue many others. 
    He and Siddiqui ran down and got fire extinguishers from the ground floor. They could control the fire to some extent. "But since it was an electrical fire and plastic from the wires was burning really fast, we decided to call the fire department and we went to every house and asked people to evacuate. While I battled the blaze, I sent others to alert the residents," said Ryan. 
    Siddiqui on his part turned off the power to the building and lifts. "I knew that if the power is not turned off soon, someone will use the lift and die of suffocation. I kept running from ground floor to the third floor. When everybody was running down Ryan and I were running up to fight the fire," said a proud Siddiqui.

Carnation (above) in Dosti Acres, where a fire broke out on Sunday and (below) residents pack their bags and leave

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

City gets 50 million litres less

35% Cut To Continue Due To Bhiwandi Pipe Burst

Mumbai: The burst pipeline at Bhiwandi that carries water from the Tansa into Mumbai sapped the already water-starved city of 8,600 kilolitres or 8.6 million litres of water. So with the BMC imposing a 35% cut in supply from Monday evening, Mumbaikars had to make do with 50 million litres less water on Tuesday. 

    The BMC has been supplying 2,900 million litres per day (mld) ever since it imposed a 15% water cut last year. The amount dropped to 2,850 mld on Tuesday, owing to the uniform cut imposed in the city by the BMC. 
    Even as the civic body has been racing against time to plug the biggest pipeline burst of the year, the job is not likely to be done before Wednesday and normal supply is likely to resume only later by Thursday evening. 
    "We started repair work only in the wee hours of Tuesday. It took long to close the valve completely and arrest the gushing water. After we did that, we drained out the water from a three-kilometre stretch between Gundavli and Tarai,'' said a civic official, adding that the city would continue to get less water even on Wednesday. 
    Hydraulic officials working on the repair of the pipeline said that they encountered several unexpected problems once they actually started the work. "We re
alised that the pipeline shell or the bottom of the pipeline had become extremely fragile. We need to replace the plate and then weld the ruptured portion,'' said S M Deshpande, hydraulic engineer, BMC. "Moreover, there is hardly any space for us to use machines because there are other pipelines around. So we are forced to do the work manually, which is taking longer,'' he added. 
    Frequent pipe bursts in recent times have added to the city's woes, which is already reeling under a 15% water cut due to a poor monsoon last year. Most pipelines in the city that have been laid in the British era are century-old. With large scale development in the city and an increase in demand, there is an added load on the already worn out pipelines. 
    Civic officials say the sheer size, intricacy and the age of the network of old pipelines seem to be at the root of the problem. To check 
the pipes from bursting every now and then, the BMC has started replacing water mains and is also looking for an alternative in the form of tunnels. 
Dry taps dampen Gudi Padwa festival 

Mumbai: It was probably one of the driest Gudi Padwas in recent memory. In numerous households across the city, taps ran dry even earlier than usual as the pipeline burst at Bhiwandi curtailed already depleted water supply. The ruptured Tansa pipeline supplies water to all the main reservoirs in the western suburbs and some in the island city. Although a uniform cut was imposed in the entire city, the western suburbs were worst affected, areas between Malad and Dahisar bearing the brunt. For the six-member Pange 

family in Borivli (E), getting through the day was a serious problem. "The water pressure was so low, that we couldn't even manage to fill a bucket. Everything got delayed, especially hoisting the Gudi. We didn't know there was a problem or we 
would have made some arrangements,'' said Milind Pange. "My son's birthday was in the evening and we had 15 guests. We were forced to order mineral water,'' he added. 
    Bharat Koli and several others from Malwani village in Malad were taken by surprise as they didn't have an idea about the burst or the ensuing water cut. "Usually, we get water for two hours in the evening. But on Monday evening, there was very water low pressure and not a drop in our taps on Tuesday,'' said Koli. 
    In Andheri's posh Lokhandwala area and Four and Seven Bungalows stretch, the existing water problems reached a head on Tuesday. "We could have our morning tea only at noon after the tankers came,'' said Sujata J, resident of Neptune building, Lokhandwala. "There was no water on Tuesday morning,'' she added. 

Other Watery Disasters 
Jan 4, 2010: A pipeline burst at Nana Chowk due to drilling by MSRDC contractors 
Oct 13, 2009: An 80-year-old Tansa main burst on Kalachowkie 
May 7, 2009: A 48-inch water main ruptured near Voltas house, Chinchpokli 
May 4, 2009: A 3.3m water pipeline burst at Ranga Bazari Chawl, Kalachowkie 
Sep 25, 2008: A 48-inch diameter water pipeline burst at Matunga

HEART OF THE PROBLEM: BMC workers repairing the Tansa mains that burst at Bhiwandi

Monday, March 1, 2010

Why Haiti's quake toll higher than Chile's

Palisades, New York (CNN) -- About six weeks ago, a large earthquake devastated Haiti and killed over 200,000 people. Saturday, a huge earthquake releasing 500 times more energy, devastated Chile and killed hundreds.

So why did the smaller earthquake kill so many more people? And why the sudden spate of disastrous earthquakes in the Americas?

No, the apocalypse is not coming. No, the two earthquakes are not linked in any way. And no, Pat Robertson, you can't blame the Devil or the French. The real answers, for those comfortable with science and the Enlightenment, are tectonics and poverty.

Of the many revolutions of the 1960s, the one that really mattered to geologists was the revolution of plate tectonics. Tectonics is the word geologists use to describe the process by which mountains move and rocks squeeze and crunch.

In the sixties, new data from research cruises and from earthquake seismometers led to the realization that tectonics makes mountains slide sideways long distances. Earth scientists discovered that the Earth has a patchy skin of mobile plates a hundred miles thick and thousands of miles across, and that they move horizontally at a slow but irresistible pace. It's where they collide that our problems begin.

South America is a prime example of this process, one that geologists call "subduction." It's why we have the long chain of mountains called the Andes and it's why countries like Chile and Peru suffer giant, destructive earthquakes every few decades.

Off the coast of Chile is a tectonic plate called the Nazca Plate. Unseen by most, it has been inching its way towards the South American continent, and sliding underneath it, for well over a hundred million years. Since the day that Magellan first rounded Tierra del Fuego it has encroached by 130 feet in a roughly east-north-east direction.

The Nazca plate doesn't slide under the South American plate in an orderly fashion though. It moves in fits and starts, sometimes sticking and sometimes slipping, sometimes here and sometimes there. Along the coast of Chile, patches can get stuck for over a hundred years. When they do finally slip, they go with a bang. All that squeezing energy is released in seconds and an earthquake happens.

On Saturday a patch roughly the size of Maryland came unstuck, unleashing one of the most powerful tremors ever recorded. Fifty years ago, a patch four times bigger and with an area of about 50,000 square miles, the size of Louisiana, slipped and triggered the Valdivia earthquake. Its magnitude has been estimated as at least 9.5, making it the largest earthquake of modern times.

Over millions of years, this tectonic squeezing has formed the Andes and raised the high desert known as the Altiplano. Elsewhere it has created the Alps, the Rockies, the Himalayas, and Tibet. It has also created and distorted some of the islands of the Caribbean, including Haiti.

So that's why some parts of the world suffer from big earthquakes that strike with irregular frequency, while other regions are seismically quiet: it all depends on where the plates meet and how fast they are running into each other.

Knowing this helps us assess seismic risk and mitigate it. It helps us know where the strongest earthquake shaking will hit and roughly how often. Predicting when the shaking will hit is a much greater challenge, and geophysicists are working hard to reach that goal. In any case, prediction is not the real problem: poverty is.

Poverty is what ultimately kills most people during an earthquake. Poverty means that little or no evaluation is made of seismic risk in constructing buildings and no zoning takes place. It means that building codes are not written, and even if they do exist they are difficult, or impossible, to enforce. It means the choice between building robustly or building cheaply is not a choice at all.

Haiti is a tragic illustration of this. Weak building materials and poor construction standards share much of the blame for the grotesque numbers of fatalities, injured and internally displaced people.

Of course it's complicated. Earthquake shaking is a complex process and the chain of causation from earthquake source magnitude through infrastructural damage to human harm involves factors like the type of earthquake fault, its orientation, the hardness of bedrock or presence of wet soil, and so on. A lot also depends on the time of day the earthquake strikes in terms of how many people are inside buildings that could collapse. Population density, distance from the epicenter, and the depth of the rupture are the most important factors of all.

Nevertheless, those countries most at risk of seismic tragedy are not simply those on tectonic plate boundaries, but also those with the least money to spend on protecting themselves.

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