BOMBAY, India, AP -The discovery of more bodies pushed the death toll from this week”s monsoon floods in Bombay to more than 850 on Saturday, with officials warning it will likely rise to around 1,000.
Workers also began clearing away thousands of animal carcasses to prevent the outbreak of diseases in the rain-battered city and its outlying areas. Rain showers began intermittently hitting the area again Saturday, though with far less force than earlier in the week.
Soldiers, navy divers and other rescuers have been searching for survivors since heavy monsoon rains and landslides battered Maharashtra state, the province surrounding Bombay, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
One top state official, speaking on condition his name not be used because he was not authorized to comment, estimated the final death toll could reach 1,000.
More than 100 bodies have been recovered over the past day, mainly from Raigarh district near Bombay, said Vishnu Patil, a rehabilitation official in the Maharashtra government. Patil put the death toll 853 so far.
"The dead bodies are still coming out, and are just being recovered from Raigarh," he said. He said most of the new deaths were caused by landslides.
As chances of finding survivors fades, civic authorities in Bombay turned to clearing animal carcasses and garbage in waterlogged areas to prevent any outbreak of waterborne diseases.
The government issued orders stopping all construction work in the city so trucks could be used to transport garbage, debris and animal carcasses, mostly of cattle that can be found wandering in most Indian cities, said Satish Shinde, a civic official.
There is no estimate available on livestock loss, but the figure is expected to run into the thousands. In one Bombay suburb alone, authorities counted 400 carcasses floating in flood waters, Shinde said.
In Saki Naka, a northern Bombay shantytown largely destroyed when part of a water-soaked hill collapsed on it earlier this week, workers used cranes Saturday to search for bodies. Residents stood by watching. A community of day laborers, few of whom earn more than $2 or so a day, most residents are forced by their poverty to remain in what is left of the devastated shantytown.
"We have no choice but to stay in this area," said Ashras Pati, a laborer with four children. "Every monsoon we”re going to worry about the hill coming down again."
Mobile phone services were restored Friday, but some neighborhoods remained without electricity into the weekend. The Bombay Stock Exchange, which was shut Thursday, also reopened Friday.
On Saturday, an Air India plane carrying 335 passengers and crew bound for Chicago skidded off a rain-soaked runway at Bombay international airport. No one was injured, Jeetendra Bhargava, an Air India spokesman said, but airport authorities closed the runway for more than two hours, delaying several other flights. The airport reopened later.