In­dian rail­way probe blames rain for deadly stam­pede

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Mum­bai, In­dia - In­dian rail­way of­fi­cials on Wed­nes­day blamed bad weather for caus­ing a deadly stam­pede at a Mum­bai sta­tion last month, de­spite com­muter warn­ings be­fore the tragedy of a dis­as­ter wait­ing to hap­pen.

Twenty-three peo­ple were killed in the crush on a nar­row over­crowded foot­bridge at El­phin­stone Road sta­tion in the cen­tre of In­dia’s com­mer­cial cap­i­tal dur­ing morn­ing rush hour on Septem­ber 29.

Ex­perts pointed the fin­ger of blame at the rail­way net­work’s creak­ing in­fra­struc­ture, which has long strug­gled to cope with sev­eral mil­lion daily pas­sen­gers.

But an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Western Rail­way’s (WR) own of­fi­cials con­cluded on Wed­nes­day that the dis­as­ter had been caused by hun­dreds of peo­ple rush­ing to the bridge’s stair­case to shel­ter from heavy mon­soon rains.

They also said a ‘mis­un­der­stand­ing’ based on the sim­i­lar­ity be­tween the lo­cal words for ‘bridge’ and ‘flower’ had led com­muters to be­lieve the bridge was col­laps­ing.

It is thought that some­one in the crowd shouted ‘A flower has fallen’ but peo­ple mis­un­der­stood it as ‘The bridge is fall­ing’.

Phool, mean­ing flower, and pool, mean­ing bridge, sound sim­i­lar in Hindi and Marathi.

The en­quiry in­sisted that the WR, which is re­spon­si­ble for the line, was not at fault.

“Heavy rains meant peo­ple were not will­ing to move out of the sta­tion. There was also a mis­un­der­stand­ing that cre­ated panic and the stam­pede oc­curred,” Ravin­der Bhakar, a spokesman for the rail­way, said.

Some 7.5mn pas­sen­gers com­mute in nearly 2,500 trains daily on Mum­bai’s creak­ing colo- nial-era rail net­work, a life­line for the city’s 20mn res­i­dents.

Trav­el­ling on it is not with­out its dan­gers, how­ever.

An av­er­age of al­most ten peo­ple die on the sub­ur­ban rail­way ev­ery day, ei­ther from fall­ing off crowded trains or while cross­ing the tracks. Of­fi­cial fig­ures show that some 3,400 peo­ple died in 2016.

Com­muters say in­vest­ment in the rail­way’s crum­bling in­fra­struc­ture has not kept up with the city’s bur­geon­ing pop­u­la­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to In­dian me­dia re­ports there had been around 100 tweets by com­muters over the last few years warn­ing about the dan­gers posed by the nar­row bridge at El­phin­stone Road.

Fol­low­ing the dis­as­ter In­dia’s Rail­ways Min­is­ter Piyush Goyal told sta­tion man­agers ‘to spend what­ever is nec­es­sary’ to en­sure pas­sen­ger safety.

Nearly US$8bn has been promised to up­grade Mum­bai’s trains.

(AFP)

Res­cue personnel (right) at the scene of a stam­pede on a rail­way bridge in Mum­bai on Septem­ber 29

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