Twenty-two people including a child were killed and over 30 seriously wounded in a rush-hour stampede in Mumbai that broke out when thousands took a narrow railway bridge connecting two stations after heavy rain. Phone videos taken by witnesses show a crowd on the British-era bridge and people climbing over the railing and hanging onto it precariously. Moments later, bodies are piled up on the stairs, pressing against the railing.
The stampede took place around 10.30 am on the tiny bridge between the Elphinstone Road and Parel stations, which are among Mumbai’s busiest. Witnesses say four trains rolled in at the same time and a large crowd poured into the bridge that was already bursting with people taking shelter from a sudden, heavy downpour. A few commuters slipped, and people fell on them.
“People on the bridge were in a rush to get down, while those who had arrived on suburban trains were making their way up,” said Kishore Thakkar, a commuter.
“The crowd was increasing …We couldn’t breathe, we were falling on each other, there was panic. There was no exit. There was also a rumour that the bridge is falling, the bridge is breaking,” shared Shruti Lokre, who survived the horror.
“The overbridge of Elphinstone station was overcrowded and due to rain it got slippery too. This caused panic and resulted in the stampede,” said Atul Shrivastav, inspector general of the Railway Protection Force.
The police are investigating reports that a short-circuit caused a loud sound near the bridge and led to panic and chaos.
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, who was in Mumbai today, has ordered an inquiry led by a top railway safety official. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited the injured in the hospital late on Friday night and said a probe will be ordered.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted condolences.
The two stations get much of Mumbai’s local train commuter traffic as there are a large number of offices in the area. Security personnel are usually posted for crowd management at the bridge.
Angry commuters and residents said the bridge is too old and narrow and not strong enough to take the busy sector. “It was a disaster waiting to happen,” remarked a local resident, saying that the bridge has been overcrowded for years and there have been multiple demands for more railway bridges for the area.
Many on social media targeted the bullet train project to link Mumbai with Ahmedabad launched earlier this month. Tweets urged the government to fund basic rail upgrades instead.