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17 People Have Drowned in a Major Indian Festival in Maharashthra

The festivities took place despite the state seeing immense damage and several deaths due to floods and heavy rainfall.

by Meera Navlakha
13 September 2019, 2:00pm

Image via WikiCommons.

This article originally appeared on VICE India.

For about 10 days every year, Ganesh Chaturthi is observed throughout India to honour Lord Ganesh’s birthday and arrival on earth. The festival is both emotional and monumental. Ganesh idols are immersed in the river or sea—in Mumbai itself, 1,50,000 statues of sizes varying from 22 centimeters to 60 feet are immersed annually in over 120 places.

But every year, the last day of the festival is marked with freak accidents and deaths as thousands of people descend into the waters and sometimes a choppy sea to immerse the idols. This year, the death toll in the state of Maharashtra has reached 17, with five people missing as well.

According to a statement from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the incidents only took place after 10 PM. Nothing was reported before this. More than 50,000 police personnel were deployed across Mumbai to monitor the processions. A police official also told NDTV that festivities were monitored via over 5,000 CCTV cameras. In Pune, over 8,000 police officers were deployed, while 169 CCTV cameras and drones were used.

The latest reports show that four people died in Amravati, three in Ratnagiri, two each in Nashik, Sindhudurg, and Satara. One person died in each of these four other districts—Thane, Dhule, Buldhana, and Bhandara.Five people have been reported missing in the past 24 hours.

A similar incident occurred after two boats capsized on September 12, resulting in 11 people drowning in a lake in Bhopal. About 20 people were present on the boats, transporting a large Ganesh idol to immerse in the lake. The State Disaster Emergency Response Force and a team of divers are undergoing rescue operations; six have been rescued so far.

The festivities come even as Maharashtra faces days of floods and rainfall, which have caused immense devastation across the state. The immersion of idols in the sea, often made using environmentally damaging materials like Plaster of Paris and chemical paint, also leads to the death of aquatic life in the area. Last year, thousands of dead turtles and fish had washed up on Mumbai’s beaches. Though the move towards eco-friendly idols has gained momentum, the damage to the waters still continues and it remains to be seen what repercussions this year’s visarjan (immersion) will come with.

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