At least 22 persons were killed and over 30 injured in a rush hour stampede on a narrow foot overbridge (FOB) linking Elphinstone Road and Parel suburban stations during heavy rain today morning, officials said.
The tragedy took place around 10:40 AM when the FOB, used by lakhs of people to commute to the commercial area with high-end corporate and media offices, was heavily crowded, a police official said.
Images of people trapped on the stairs and the narrow decades-old bridge did the rounds of social media. Videos from those on the platform watching helplessly as the tragedy unfolded, with some attempting to make a perilous escape by climbing over the railing, were also circulated.
As condolences came in from President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, officials started looking into the reasons for the tragedy.
“The FOB of Elphinstone station was overcrowded and due to rain it got slippery too. This caused panic and resulted in the stampede,” said Atul Shrivastav, Inspector General of the Railway Protection Force.
“Due to sudden rain, people waited at the station. When the rain stopped, there was chaos as people rushed out,” added railways spokesperson Anil Saxena.
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.
Eight women and a young boy were amongst those killed, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) disaster management cell chief Mahesh Narvekar said, adding that five of the injured were critical.
“Situation in Mumbai is being continuously monitored. @PiyushGoyal is in Mumbai taking stock of the situation & ensuring all assistance,” Modi said in a tweet.
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, who reached Mumbai this morning, cancelled his programme to inaugurate 100 additional suburban services in Mumbai and announced a high-level inquiry. He also announced a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh to the kin of each of the deceased, Rs. 1 lakh for the grievously injured and Rs. 50,000 for those with minor injuries. Goyal announced a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh to the kin of each of the deceased, Rs. 1 lakh for the grievously injured and Rs. 50,000 for those with minor injuries.
The Maharashtra government also announced a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh to the families of those killed.
According to the BMC’s disaster control room, 22 people were brought dead to the KEM Hospital in Parel. "The injured persons were taken to various hospitals," an official said.
Officials of the railway, police and fire brigade rushed to the site to carry out rescue operation. ”...it seems that during heavy rain, unexpected crowd (of passengers) gathered on the north foot overbridge that connects Elphinstone Road and Parel stations,” WR’s Chief Public Relations Officer Ravinder Bhakar said.
“Though security personnel were deployed to regulate the crowd on the staircases of the platform, excessive crowd led to the unfortunate incident,” he added.
According to Bhakar, it was technically not a “rail-related” incident, but the victims would be compensated according to rules of the railways.
Soon after the stampede, an accident relief medical equipment train rushed to the spot and medical assistance was provided to the victims, a railway official said.
“Have ordered a high level enquiry headed by the Chief Safety Officer, Western Railways,” the railways minister tweeted. “I feel sad for these families and such a thing happening in my Mumbai is matter of grave concern. We are committed to avoid any recurrence of any such incidents,” he told reporters.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is in Singapore for an investor interaction, added in a tweet that an inquiry would be conducted by the Maharashtra government and the Ministry of Railways and necessary strict action would be taken. "The medical expenses of the injured would be borne by the state government," he added.
WR’s General Manager A K Gupta visited the KEM Hospital and spoke to some of the injured persons.
The Mumbai police has issued an appeal to donate blood. “A —ve, B —ve and AB —ve blood is required in KEM hospital for those injured in #Elphinstone stampede. Please contact the blood bank at KEM,” the Mumbai police tweeted.
Our New Delhi Bureau adds:
Elphinston Bridge will be widened by November
Death of at least 22 people in Mumbai following a stampede at a railways' footover bridge project has brought the focus on time taken in executing already sanctioned project in the government machinery.
The widening and improving of Elphinston Bridge project was sanctioned in 2016-17, according to railway officials, who declined to be named.
But, the project got delayed due to the usual “due diligence” that happens before a government project is undertaken. Meanwhile, another document, from government sources, showed that the project was to be included in the 2017-18 Budget.
“A tender for the project has been issued. The bridge will be up and running by November,” said a railway official.