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Flights, trains in turmoil as rains hit Mumbai

[NEW DELHI] Many flights were cancelled and trains were running late in Mumbai, India's financial hub, on Wednesday, as rains disrupted normal life for the second time in less than a month, highlighting infrastructure challenges in India's mega-cities.

Heavy rains are predicted in Mumbai, home to the the nation's two largest stock exchanges and the central bank, and its suburbs in the next few hours, according to India's weather office.

Schools and colleges of Mumbai metropolitan area were ordered shut by Vinod Tawde, the education minister for Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital.

Adding to the woes of the worst downpour in three weeks, high tide is forecast in the coastal city beginning noon until 6pm.

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The second such disruption since Aug 29 highlights the lack of infrastructure in a city, where the population has surged to 18 million.

Authorities are finally investing in building a mass transit system, while residents still rely on a century-old drainage system.

While no reports of any fatalities came in on Wednesday, operations of Mumbai's suburban trains that serve 8 million people daily, were disrupted.

"Mumbai needs much better disaster preparedness," said Ajit Ranade, chief economist at the Aditya Birla Group, "Given that rainfall patterns - quantity, timing and geographical distribution - are all changing, it calls for much higher levels of preparedness."

A SpiceJet Boeing 737 aircraft skidded off the wet runway at Mumbai's airport late on Tuesday, forcing the second-busiest airport in the country to stop using its main runway.

Most airlines, including market leader IndiGo, Jet Airways India, SpiceJet and Vistara, part-owned by Singapore Airlines, said flights to Mumbai will be affected on Wednesday.

Mumbai's Santacruz weather station recorded 30.37 centimetres of rain in the last 24 hours, according to the India Meteorological Department.

The centre recorded 33.1 centimetres of rain in 24 hours that ended at 8.30am on Aug 30, which was heaviest since 94.4 centimetres of rain in 2005.

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