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22 dead, 39 hurt in Elphinstone Road Station Stampede, Government orders probe

Picture Courtesy : Mumbai Live
Picture Courtesy : Mumbai Live

Just hours after at least 22 people were killed and 39 injured in a rush hour stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road station, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal in an attempt to cool down tempers announced Rs 10 lakh compensation for the victims.

“Ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh will be given by the state government and Rs 5 lakh by the Railways to the kin of each of the deceased. Rs 1 lakh compensation will be given to grievously injured while those with minor injuries will get Rs 50,000 as ex-gratia,” Goyal said while addressing a press conference, according to a report by Times of India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed his grief over the tragedy and and tweeted his condolences

The Railway Minister also announced that the Ministry will bear the medical expense of the injured.

“Just landed in Mumbai. Deeply grieved at tragic loss of innocent lives due to an unfortunate stampede at Elphinstone Road foot over bridge. My heartfelt condolences to the families of the bereaved. I pray for the speedy recovery of the injured persons. Have ordered a high-level enquiry headed by the Chief Safety Officer, Western Railways,” the railway minister said.

“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 added.

Goyal was on his way to the city to launch several new trains along the suburban line. The event was later cancelled in view of the tragic incident.

The tragedy took place around 10.40 am when the overbridge, linking Elphinstone Road and Parel suburban stations, became overcrowded with people taking shelter from a heavy downpour. The bridge is used by lakhs of people to commute to the commercial area with high-end corporate and media offices, a police official said.

People were trapped on the stairs and the decades-old bridge, crammed so tight in the narrow space that several suffocated to death. As those on the platform below watched helplessly, many people attempted to escape by climbing over the railing. Many were seen trying desperately to stay upright in the onslaught pf tumbling humanity.

“It was raining heavily and people on the bridge were in a rush to get down, while those who had alighted from suburban trains were making their way up,” said Kishor Thakkar, who has been travelling on the route for years.

“We had given a letter to the railway administration six months ago with a request to do something to improve the shoddy state of affairs here,” he said.

The pile of footwear left behind was a mute testimony to the tragedy that unfolded.

Meanwhile, the blame game has already begun with the Shiv Sena targeting the Railways and the NDA government at the Centre, and asking for Goyal’s resignation.

“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.

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.

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.

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