Rain, confusion to blame for Mumbai Elphinstone stampede, says Western Railway report

Passengers caught in a stampede at Elphinstone railway station's foot overbridge, in Mumbai on Friday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Two weeks after the Elphinstone bridge stampede in Mumbai, an inquiry committee has blamed heavy rain, crowd and confusion for the tragedy that killed at least 23 people.

The five-member panel, led by the Western Railway chief security officer, submitted its report after analysing evidence from the witnesses, written statement of injured persons and CCTV footage of the September 29 incident, the Ministry of Railways said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The Committee concluded that the incident occurred due to sudden downpour of heavy rains and accumulation of commuters on FOB [foot overbridge] and staircase at around 10.00 hrs onwards,” the Ministry of Railways said.

It added that the situation got “aggravated” when a vendor dropped a bundle of flowers followed by the shouting “Majha phool padla” (my flowers fell) and commuters “mistook” the word phool (flowers) for “pull” (bridge). “This may have possibly triggered panic and led to stampede,” the official statement said.

The Railways has constituted a high-level expert committee headed by retired Chief Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha to inquire into reasons for delay in issuing the tender for the Elphinstone Road foot overbridge.

“It pained me when I saw the file where a foot overbridge which was approved but it took months to finalise the design and prepare the documentation to tender it. It is a wake up call for all my colleagues in the railways. They will have to bring speed and efficiency into our system,” Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said at an event in New Delhi.

Asked whether it was the railways’ fault in the incident, Western Railways chief public relations officer Ravinder Bhakar said while briefing reporters in Mumbai, “We cannot blame one staffer or department for this incident. I’m not denying that there was lacuna in the present system. Inadequate facilities are part of the report. We have mentioned them in the three parts of the reports of the incident.”

According to the probe report, people with heavy luggage lost their balance because of which the stampede might have occurred. The probe also said none of the witnesses supported the claim of a short circuit on the bridge leading to the chaos.

The inquiry panel has recommended that passengers be prevented from carrying heavy luggage during peak hours. The movement of commuters, mainly vendors, carrying baskets stuffed with goods during peak hours should also be restricted, it further said.

(With inputs from PTI)

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 10:29:24 PM |

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