22 people killed in Mumbai stampede

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 30 Sep 2017 08:55:16



Police suspect that short-circuit with a loud sound near FOB triggered stampede

Railway officials say, overcrowding on the bridge due to rains caused the tragedy

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal announces high-level inquiry

Fadnavis, who is abroad, announces a separate probe and compensation for the victims

TWENTY-TWO commuters were killed and at least 39 others were injured, some critically, when a horrific stampede broke out on a narrow railway foot overbridge linking Elphinstone Road and Parel stations when hundreds took shelter there to escape pounding rains, here on Friday.

The tragedy took place around 10.40 am. What caused the stampede was not clear. Dazed survivors claimed the panic run followed rumours of a short-circuit. Police also suspect that a short-circuit with a loud sound near the FOB led to panic and people started running, resulting in the stampede. Railway officials, however, blamed overcrowding on the bridge due to the downpour as hundreds gathered to take shelter and more kept pouring in.

But in no time, people desperately trying to get out of the British-era bridge collapsed over one another, many instantly crushed to death. The dead included 14 men and eight women. The site resembled a war zone with hundreds of wailing commuters, many of them trapped between the footsteps on the stairs and on the gaps in the handle bars and railings. Some even dangled precariously from the bridge while local trains zoomed below. By the time it was all over, there was a large scattered heap of bloodstained slippers and shoes, handbags or briefcases, tiffin boxes and water bottles, spectacles, crushed mobiles and broken jewellery, pieces of torn clothes and other belongings of the commuters.

The first to respond to the disaster were taxi drivers and motorists who rushed the injured and the barely living to the KEM Hospital in Parel in cabs and even two-wheelers.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, who reached Mumbai on Friday morning, cancelled his programme to inaugurate 100 additional suburban services in Mumbai and announced a high-level inquiry headed by Western Railway’s Chief Safety Officer. When Goyal and Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde reached the hospital to meet the injured, they faced demonstrations and sloganeering by thousands of angry commuters and Shiv Sainiks demanding accountability for the deaths.

The hospital appealed for blood donations. Thousands of Mumbaikars responded. Within hours, all the hospital’s requirements were met. The Elphinstone Road station is part of Western Railway and the Parel station belongs to Central Railway.

The overbridge linked the two networks. President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief.“My deepest condolences to all those who have lost their lives due to the stampede in Mumbai. Prayers with those who are injured,” Modi tweeted. The incident provided fuel to BJP ally Shiv Sena and the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party to attack the proposed Rs 1.08 lakh crore bullet train project.

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut termed the deaths “a public massacre” and demanded criminal proceedings against the Railway Minister and top railway officials on charges of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”. Another Sena MP, Rahul Shewale, said he wrote to then Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in April 2015 demanding that the foot overbridge - the scene of the stampede - should be widened but it was rejected on grounds of paucity of funds and operational constraints. The Central and Maharashtra Governments announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to families of the dead besides compensation and free medical treatment to the injured.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is abroad, announced a separate probe into the incident and compensation for the victims, most of who were identified by late evening. Congress leader Ashok Chavan demanded a judicial probe and stringent action against the guilty.

NCP senior leader Jitendra Awhad said the Government had promised to fund a Rs 46,000 crore project to overhaul Mumbai’s suburban railway network. It was mum on the long-pending suburban elevated rail corridor and instead was focussing on an expensive Bullet Train. Congress and NCP leaders also demanded the resignation of Railway Minister Goyal, who took charge this month. Meanwhile, hours after the railway Foot Overbridge (FOB) stampede that claimed at least 22 lives here on Friday, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal announced a safety and capacity audit of all FOBs on the suburban train network.

“A complete safety and capacity audit of all the FOBs across the suburban train network will be conducted,” he said.
“Normally, it takes 20 days to come out with the report (of any incident), but for the auditing purpose of all the FOBs, we need to send technical experts and I guess that within 20 days we will have the audit reports of all the FOBs of the suburban trains,” the minister added. He was speaking at the BMC-run KEM Hospital, where bodies of those killed in the tragedy were brought. Several of the injured are also admitted there.

Goyal said that the railways would expedite improvement in suburban train services “on highest priority”. “I have come to know that the official procedure to widen the ill-fated bridge was underway. Budget was sanctioned only last year and the tendering process was underway, but unfortunately, this most tragic incident unfolded today,” he told reporters. He said his thoughts were with the grieving families. Goyal also recounted his old bond with the Indian Railways, particularly the Central Railway and the Western Railway during his education days in Mumbai.
He said even on Thursday he had underlined the necessity to improve the comfort level of train travellers.