22 dead in In­dia stam­pede

Of­fi­cial al­leges peo­ple thought bridge was col­laps­ing

The Republican Herald - - NATION/WORLD - BY RAFIQ MAQ­BOOL AND MAN­ISH MEHTA

MUM­BAI, In­dia — A stam­pede broke out on a crowded pedes­trian bridge con­nect­ing two rail­way sta­tions in Mum­bai dur­ing the Fri­day morn­ing rush, killing at least 22 peo­ple and in­jur­ing 32 oth­ers, In­dian of­fi­cials said.

Po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing what caused the stam­pede on the bridge, which led some com­muters to leap over the rail­ing. Oth­ers were crushed or fell un­der­foot and were tram­pled.

“There were too many peo­ple on the bridge, and the peo­ple were in hurry and wanted to move out,” said Bri­jesh Upad­hyay, one of the many caught in the crowd. “There was no­body help­ing, it was very suf­fo­cat­ing, and we just wanted to get out of there — and fell on each other.”

One res­cuer told In­dian broad­caster NDTV that the stam­pede trapped dozens in the nar­row pas­sage, forc­ing res­cuers to break the rail­ing to pull peo­ple out.

Mum­bai po­lice of­fi­cial Gan­sham Pa­tel said some fall­ing con­crete had hit part of the bridge rail­ing, lead­ing peo­ple to surge for­ward out of panic at the thought that the bridge was col­laps­ing.

Com­muters also of­ten com­plain about hawk­ers sell­ing their wares on the nar­row over­pass, which con­nects two com­muter rail­way sta­tions, El­phin­stone and Parel.

Heavy rains meant the bridge was even more crowded than usual, as some sought shel­ter from the down­pour un­der the canopy cov­er­ing the bridge, said law­maker Shaina Nana Chu­dasama of the gov­ern­ing Bhar­tiya Janata Party.

Hos­pi­tals were treat­ing 32 in­jured peo­ple, in­clud­ing 19 women and 13 men.

As Mum­bai po­lice ap­pealed to cit­i­zens to do­nate blood to help the in­jured, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ex­pressed his con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies of those killed.

“Prayers with those who are in­jured,” Modi tweeted.

Kishore Thakkar, an­other wit­ness, said the bridge be­came over­crowded as peo­ple stopped, wait­ing for the rain to ease. “But then came a heavy push by peo­ple, caus­ing some peo­ple to fall down and get crushed by the surge of pas­sen­gers.”

He com­plained that gov­ern­ment res­cuers did not re­spond quickly to alerts sent by phone.

“Lo­cal peo­ple had pulled out most of the vic­tims by the time the po­lice and gov­ern­ment res­cuers ar­rived,” Thakkar told TV news channel ABP.

Tabrez Mukadam, a rel­a­tive of a day worker who died in the stam­pede, said such ac­ci­dents hap­pen too of­ten in In­dia.

“These were all com­mon peo­ple, la­bor­ers , day work­ers. There has been talk about this bridge for a long time now as it is crowded dur­ing non-peak times also. All this time the gov­ern­ment ig­nored it, and to­day we see this ac­ci­dent.”

Separately in the south­ern city of Banglaore, two peo­ple were killed in an­other stam­pede by hun­dreds of peo­ple jostling to ob­tain coupons for free food of­fered by a lo­cal phi­lan­thropist, po­lice said. The phi­lan­thropist has been de­tained for ques­tion­ing.

Deadly stam­pedes are fairly com­mon in densely pop­u­lated In­dia, where many cities are un­equipped to deal with large crowds gath­er­ing in small ar­eas, with few safety or crowd con­trol mea­sures.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A slip­per of an in­jured com­muter is stuck on the rail­ing of a pedes­trian bridge where a stam­pede took place Fri­day at El­phin­stone sta­tion, Mum­bai, In­dia. The stam­pede broke out on a crowded pedes­trian bridge con­nect­ing two rail­way sta­tions in Mum­bai dur­ing the Fri­day morn­ing rush, killing a num­ber of peo­ple, po­lice said.

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