The Nagercoil-Shalimar Gurdev Express (12659) was late on Tuesday. It was supposed to arrive at 1.18pm but pulled in to Santragachi railway station platform 1, 36 minutes past five in the evening. Muhammad Anaz and his friend Anas K Ismail had by then given up looking at their watches. They had been on the train for the last two days. They were exhausted. They were not prepared for what happened next.
“We were on the foot-overbridge when the stampede began,” said Anaz, a physiotherapist who practised here. “The elderly and children were suffocating. No one was able to come out of the crowd. In fact, people were so desperate that didn’t even care about people falling on each other. The crowd wasn’t moving at all on the bridge for more than 15 minutes. We were not able to breathe. My friend saw a woman screaming in pain and tried to pull her out.”
On platform 2, 43-year-old Rabani Hembram was waiting for her 26-year-old daughter Gouri. “She had gotten on the footover-bridge to buy a ticket. then I heard the screams. I couldn’t see Gouri anywhere,” said Rabani. “I tried her cellphone but nothing happened. I couldn’t do anything. I ran home crying.”
A few hours later, Rabani received news that she would forever remember: the woman Ismail tried to rescue was Gouri. All three were safe, although Ismail and Gouri had suffered injuries and were now admitted in South Eastern Railway Central Hospital in Garden Reach. Their condition were reported to be stable. As per hospital sources, four persons were admitted there.
It later turned out that at the time the Express pulled in to the platform, a local train and another Express had pulled in to platforms 2 and 3 almost at the same time. The rush of passengers onto and off the footover-bridge is alleged to have caused the stampede. Two people died in the incident.
“There were continuous announcements at the station warning people to not overcrowd the bridge but no one paid attention,” said a senior Railways official.
“If only they had not rushed, those two lives could have been saved,” said Rabani.