Two persons were killed and 11 injured, two grievously, when a gigantic water pipeline along the Khopri bridge came crashing down on a Kalyan-bound local train between Thane and Mulund stations on Friday morning.
Central Railway Public Relations Officer A.K. Singh told The Hindu on the phone that the incident occurred around 10.55 a.m. Motorman R.Ramachandra, 43, and a commuter Subhash Popat Nikam, 35, were killed.
There are three or four girders supporting the bridge, which is under construction. K.D. Lala, city engineer at the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC), said that the girders were there since 2006. Some wear and tear in one of them could have caused it to slip and take the bridge and the pipeline along with it.
V.M. Bhatt, Deputy Commissioner, TMC, said the bridge was 43 metres long and the pipeline some 15 years old. However, only a detailed inquiry would unravel the exact reason for the disaster.
According to an accident report prepared by the railway authorities, the incident resulted in the derailment of two coaches. It extensively damaged the tracks for 50 metres and the Over Head Equipment. The urgent repair work, which was underway, was expected to be completed by 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Train services along the Central line came to a grinding halt as rescue operations continued throughout the day. Services on all the four lines between Ghatkopar and Thane were suspended. As an alternative arrangement, passengers were allowed to use the Harbour and Western Lines.
Eighty-eight additional buses were deployed on the CST-Sion-Ghatkopar-Thane route. Outstation trains were either rescheduled or cancelled, an official release said.
Mr. Lala said the bridge had been under construction since 2002 and work was plagued by massive delays. “Certain things which needed to be completed have not been done. For eight years, we have been writing to the government departments about the pending work and telling them that the bridge was in a dangerous condition, but to no avail,” he said.
In the face of the tragedy, a blame-game of sorts has begun between the Railways and the municipal authorities. Mr. Singh said that the TMC was responsible for the incident as the railways had sent several letters asking for the work on the bridge to be completed.
Precious water was wasted, as it continued to flow for two full hours. “Water supply for around one-and-a-half lakh people in the Kopri area has been affected,” said Mr. Lala. “We have positioned 16 tankers. I am trying to get a new water connection approved with help from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. It is my priority to restore supply by tomorrow.”
Commissioner, Railway Safety, Central Circle, Sudhir Kumar would conduct an inquiry into the incident on Monday at the Thane station and on Tuesday in the Divisional Railway Manager’s office at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.