Mumbai, Sep 29 (IANS) In a Dussehra-eve tragedy, at least 22 commuters were killed in a stampede on a narrow railway footover bridge connecting the Parel-Elphinstone Road stations of Western Railway here on Friday morning, officials said.
At least 32 others were injured, many critically, and casualty figures could go up, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corp (BMC) Disaster Control said after the morning peak hour tragedy.
Among the dead were 18 males and four females while 23 men and nine women were injured and undergoing treatment, a BMC official said.
The victims were rushed to the KEM Hospital in Parel. A Railway Board official in New Delhi announced a probe into the incident.
The exact cause of the stampede was not known but witnesses claimed that a sudden rumour of a suspected electrical short-circuit triggered a panic run.
Officials, however, blamed it on overcrowding on the footover bridge due to torrential rains as people took shelter there.
The crowds increased as many more attempted to enter the bridge — for shelter and going over to the other side.
Before rescue teams arrived, cab drivers and others helped shift the injured in taxis and on two-wheelers.
The Maharashtra government announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the dead and free medical treatment to the injured.
“We have ordered a probe into the circumstances leading to the massive tragedy,” Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to the distraught families.
The tragedy occurred as Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, who took charge earlier this month, reached Mumbai to launch scores of new suburban train services for Western Railway and Central Railway as well as the Harbour Line.
Following the incident, Goyal cancelled his inaugurations plans.
In a sharp reaction, the Shiv Sena demanded the resignation of Goyal, adequate compensation for all the victims and prioritizing immediate measures for ensuring safety and security of Mumbai commuters.
Mumbai Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar, who visited the scene, said it was the responsibility of the Western Railway authorities to ensure commuters’ safety.
The festival-eve calamity sparked off angry reactions on social media, with many questioning lapses vis-a-vis safety and security of commuters even as mega-projects like Bullet Trains are announced with fanfare.