Did ru­mours of bridge giv­ing way trig­ger the tragedy?

TRAGEDY Sur­vivors say talks of short cir­cuit and bridge col­lapse set off panic

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - NEWS - Ee­shan­priya MS ee­shan­priya@hin­dus­tan­times.com n

MUM­BAI: Ev­ery day, at least one lakh com­muters take the El­phin­stone Road foot over­bridge (FOB) and Fri­day was no dif­fer­ent, which begs the ques­tion — how did a daily oc­cur­rence es­ca­late into a stam­pede?

Ac­cord­ing to sur­vivors of the tragedy, com­muters were stuck on the over­crowded bridge for al­most an hour amid heavy rain and the crowd was mov­ing at snail’s pace. Su­jay Panse, who man­aged to get off the bridge be­fore the mishap, said: “The stam­pede sit­u­a­tion started around 10.30am. The bridge is so nar­row and it was over­crowded from about 9.45am. No po­lice­men came to reg­u­late the queues, de­spite the pres­ence of CCTVs.”

Two ru­mours be­gan cir­cu­lat­ing, which most likely caused com­muters to panic, sur­vivors said. One ru­mour, a sur­vivor said, was of a short cir­cuit. But an­other eye­wit­ness said some com­muters were in a hurry to get off the bridge and jok­ingly said it would col­lapse be­cause of the bur­den on it, which led to panic.

The West­ern Rail­way (WR) seemed to con­firm this.

Ravin­der Bhakar, WR spokesper­son, said: “Dur­ing an in­quiry, rail­ways found out there was a ru­mour of a bridge col­lapse, which cre­ated panic. We will in­ves­ti­gate to find out who started it and ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion will be taken against the per­son.”

Sur­vivor Aakash Kotecha said, “I was on the stair­case near the foot of the bridge at 10.30am and there was a lot of rush. Some peo­ple from the crowd felt suf­fo­cated, and oth­ers were push­ing those around them. The peo­ple around me pan­icked only when a man rushed to us telling us to get off quickly. He said three peo­ple have died in this stam­pede on the other side of the stair­case.”

Kotecha said this scared peo­ple and a woman car­ry­ing a bun­dle of flow­ers dropped it, and tripped on it. That’s when ev­ery­one be­hind her be­gan to slip and fall.

Aarti Kirte, who was stuck on the Parel side of the FOB, said peo­ple stuck on the stair­case were in­jured be­cause they fell on the stairs and were tram­pled upon. She said, “It was eas­ier for men, be­cause they climbed the rail­ing and jumped off the bridge, but women got stuck and fell. Even I felt suf­fo­cated.”

Kirte com­mutes from El­phin­stone sta­tion daily. “This bridge is al­ways crowded be­cause it is so nar­row. There are rarely any po­lice­men. On Fri­day, the crowd was larger than usual and the floor was wet from the rain, so it was ob­vi­ous peo­ple would slip.”

Ga­janan Vi­jay, who lives nearby, said, “I was stand­ing on the side, and I saw many peo­ple stick­ing their heads out from the rail­ing, or jump­ing off it. Those who jumped off sur­vived, and even helped in res­cue work.”

Deepak Naik, who also wit­nessed the stam­pede, said: “I heard one man on the stair­case shout­ing he could not breathe. He pushed those ahead of him in a bid to es­cape, but they all fell. ”

Ac­cord­ing to sur­vivors, it took quite some time for po­lice to con­trol the sit­u­a­tion. Eye­wit­nesses said it was com­muters and peo­ple from nearby ar­eas who helped the vic­tims im­me­di­ately.

AP

Footwear and other be­long­ings at the mishap site on Fri­day.

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