Mumbai: The Elphinstone railway station tragedy is believed to have been triggered by panic after some commuters mistook ‘phul’ (flower) as ‘pul’ (bridge), a Railways inquiry report said. The situation aggravated when a vendor shouted ‘Phul Padla’ (phool gir gaye) and mistook it as ‘Pul Padla’ (bridge has fallen), sources said on the basis of inquiry report. The tragedy claimed 23 lives on September 29 as the footover bridge was getting overcrowded.
The panel, headed by the Western Railway chief security officer, submitted its report to WR General Manager Anil Kumar today after recording statements of 30 commuters who were injured. The report said that due to heavy rain commuters weren’t moving out of the footover bridge to avoid getting drenched. And more passengers added to already overcrowded rush as subsequent suburban rail arrived in quick succession during peak rush hour, the sources said.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has said that he was “pained” that the tender for the new bridge was not floated on time despite being approved. “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,” said Goyal, refusing to comment later on the probe report.
According to the report, the constant flow of passengers arriving at the station compounded the problem. The report said people with heavy luggage lost their balance because of which the stampede may 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.
Other recommendations by the panel include relocating the elevated booking office to widen the staircase. An additional staircase can also be provided, the panel said in the report.
It has suggested that officials use a quick mode of communication apart from mobile phones to ensure timely reaction. Wireless handsets can be provided to station and security staff, the report said.
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