An unexpected spell of rain and a slew of rumours - that's all it took to turn Elphinstone station into a death trap yesterday, after a stampede broke out on the foot overbridge (FOB), killing 22 and leaving 39 injured.
Kin of one of the deceased mourns at KEM Hospital on Friday. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
The mishap took place between 10.20 and 10.30 am. The bridge is used by commuters from both Parel and Elphinstone Road stations. Locals said that it was more crowded than usual due to people visiting Dadar flower market for Dussehra. They thronged the FOB at the north-end - the same side used by hundreds of people heading to work in nearby corporate towers.
AâÂÂÂÂÂÂcommuter's photo of the stampede at Elphinstone Road station on Friday. Pic/Twitter
Disaster rains down
The narrow staircase can hardly accommodate four people across its 6.7-ft width, but yesterday, there were hundreds there. Things got worse when a surprise shower began, sending more people scurrying to the FOB. This burgeoning sea of people was crammed all the way till the ticket counter.
What sparked panic among the commuters were rumours of a short circuit, after the overhead wires flashed while a local train was passing by. People began shoving and shouting. Suddenly, there were rumours that the FOB was collapsing too. Panicked commuters gave a tremendous push from the upper side of the bridge. As the bridge was slippery due to the rains, people who were carrying cargo from the wholesale garment and the flower markets, slipped and fell. But the crowd kept pushing and falling over them.
Locals recall the horror
SR Tripathi, who lives in a building right next to the station, said, "It's not unusual for us to hear loud noises. But today, there was too much noise. We came out on our balconies and saw people falling on each other. I immediately rushed down and tried to help them."
Ironically, when news of the mishap spread, many thought it was a rumour. When mid-day called the disaster management cell at 11 am, an official said that they had reports of the stampede, but were yet to receive confirmation that it was not a hoax.
Eyewitnesses blame the authorities for delay in reaching the spot and mismanaging the crisis. Sangeeta Kumbhar, a local resident, said, "It started around 10.30 am, but the authorities came to the incident site very late; by then, the damage was done."
Gangadhar Mandala, who was visiting a corporate house near the station, said, "The authorities should have made an announcement to use another bridge. They should have at least announced that there was no need to panic, but no effort was seen from their end."
Mumbai Stampede stories
Railway minister gives 24-hour deadline
After a marathon five-hour meeting, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said that he had given railway officials 24 hours to come up with solutions. "We will conduct an audit of all the safety aspects in a week's time. On Saturday morning, the entire railway board is flying down to Mumbai, along with experts from the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), the chief commissioner of safety and other senior officials to discuss safety-related issues. We will generate whatever funds are required for this," said the minister.
Deceased: Rs 5 lakh from Railways, Rs 5 lakh from state
Seriously injured: Rs 1 lakh from railways, free medical treatment from state
Minor injuries: Rs 50,000 from railways, free medical treatment from state
Shailesh Goyal, member of the Mumbai suburban railway users consultants (WR)
'It was definitely a failure of the railway administration. Why did passengers take shelter on the FOB? There is no proper shelter at the platforms.'
Average number of passengers at Elphinstone Road station during peak hours
Width of the FOB staircase
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