22 dead, 35 injured in stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road station
Twenty-two people were killed and 35 others were injured after a stampede broke out on a crowded pedestrian bridge connecting two stations in Mumbai on Friday, one of the worst tragedies to hit the city’s teeming local train network.
It was unclear what caused the stampede, with official and witness accounts suggesting people may have panicked during the morning rush after believing there was a livewire or the bridge was about to fall.
“Some of the injured are in serious condition,” Deepak Sawant, the health minister of Maharashtra, said at a hospital where the injured were taken.
The bridge, which connects Elphinstone and Parel stations, is usually crowded during rush hours but it was more so on Friday morning after people huddled to take cover from a sudden downpour. The stampede took place around 10:30am, when hundreds of people are on it at a time on most days.
“Commuters started panicking after somebody shouted that the bridge was collapsing and that there was a short circuit. People started pushing and those in the middle of the stairs fell. Many commuters who tried to escape through the railing got stuck,” said a man who was on the platform below.
Elphinstone and Parel are two of four stations that bring in lakhs of office-goers from different parts of Mumbai and its outskirts to Lower Parel, a commercial district that has rapidly grown in recent decades.
The stations were built at least six decades ago, when the locality was mostly dotted with textile mills, and have not been overhauled to handle crowds that began ballooning since the 1990s.
Hours after Friday’s stampede, railway officials sought bids for a new pedestrian bridge at the Elphinstone station, according to news agency PTI.
“This accident will hopefully be a wake-up call for the minister and his officials. Instead of fancy bullet trains, they should first ensure railway commuters don’t die horrible deaths like this because of their negligence,” said Leena Shirodkar, a Parel resident who commutes to Andheri every day for work.
Union railways minister Piyush Goyal, who recently took charge, was coincidentally on his way to Mumbai when the stampede took place to take a local train to understand the problems that the city’s 75 lakh tain commuters face.
He visited the KEM hospital, where the injured were taken, and announced that the Elphinstone Road FOB will be expanded immediately.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced Rs 5 lakh compensation for families of the deceased, and said all medical expenses of the injured will be borne by the Maharashtra government.
The CM also promised that the state and the railway ministry will conduct an inquiry into the incident and take strict action.
President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the deaths.
BJP’s ally Shiv Sena lashed out, calling the stampede “a public massacre of the people by the government.”
Leaders of opposition Congress too criticised the government, calling the tragedy a “man-made disaster”.