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‘Phool gir gaya’: Rumour, heavy downpour led to Elphinstone Road stampede

An injured commuter told WR authorities that a flower vendor shouted ‘phool gir gaya’ (flowers are falling) which the people misunderstood as ‘pul gir gaya’ (bridge has fallen) and panicked.

mumbai Updated: Oct 11, 2017 23:03 IST
Aroosa Ahmed
Aroosa Ahmed
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Elphinstone Road stampede,Rumour,Heavy Rain
Commuters morning rush at Elphinstone Railway station in Mumbai, on October 3, 2017. (Bhushan Koyande/Hindustan Times)

After investigating the September 29 Elphinstone Road stampede, the Western Railway has blamed heavy rainfall and a rumour for the incident. The probe report stated that the downpour led to overcrowding at the Foot Over Bridge and its staircases when commuters refused to step out in the rain.

The situation at the overcrowded FOB took a turn for the worse when people thought that the bridge was about to collapse and they all panicked. Sources said the report pointed out that the crowd tried to exit the station and that caused the stampede. The probe panel has recommended certain measures including widening of staircases of the FOB to prevent such incidents in the future.

Sources revealed that an injured commuter told WR authorities that a flower vendor shouted ‘phool gir gaya’ (flowers are falling) which the people on the FOB misunderstood as ‘pul gir gaya’ (bridge has fallen) and panicked.

The report, which has been prepared by a panel headed by Western Railway’s chief safety officer, is based on the statements of more than 30 witnesses. “After it began raining, commuters on the staircase refused to move. The commuters, who wanted to come up but were stranded on the staircase, were struggling to climb the stairs. This resulted in commotion that led to the stampede with people panicking and trying to escape the bridge after hearing rumours that the bridge was about to collapse. All this has been pointed out in the report,”said a source.

According to officials, the report recommends the booking office at Elphinstone Road station be relocated, the staircase be widened and communication among authorities be improved.

The railway authorities are also considering not allowing people with bulky and heavy objects at the station, or in the train during peak hours.

The railway officials visited the spot where the stampede occurred and the injured people’s houses to get their statements. Shilpa Vishwakarma, who had sustained injuries in the stampede, had told HT that it was the fault of the people who refused to move from the crowded FOB. “The FOB was overcrowded and people refused to move. Everyone was stuck and there was chaos. People were also shouting that the bridge is falling which resulted in more confusion and then the stampede,” Vishwakarma had said.

The stampede occurred on September 29 on the Elphinstone Road FOB which connects the station to the Parel station of Central Railway. In what could be clearly called as the worst accident on the city’s suburban railway network, 23 people lost their lives and 38 were injured. This prompted the union railway minister Piyush Goyal to hold a Railway Board meeting in the city. An inquiry into the incident was ordered.

First Published: Oct 11, 2017 23:03 IST