Six people were killed and at least 31 others injured when a portion of the foot overbridge at the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) railway station in south Mumbai collapsed Thursday evening. Passengers in a taxi had a lucky escape after parts of debris crushed its roof and bonnet.
The roughly 50-m structure, which is also known as Himalaya bridge, was built in the 1980s by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and is one of the three points of entry to the station. Officials claimed this bridge sees a daily footfall of over 10,000.
Those killed in the accident were identified as Apurva Prabhu (35), Ranjana Tambe (40), Bhakti Shinde (40), Zahid Siraj Khan (32), Tapendra Singh (35) and Mohan Kayangudi (58). Prabhu, Tambe and Shinde were nurses at the Gokuldas Tejpal (GT) Hospital nearby.
A senior police officer said a case will be registered against officials responsible for ensuring that the bridge was in “proper condition”. Police will register an offence under IPC section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) in the case, said DCP (Zone I) Abhishek Trimukhe.
According to eyewitnesses, the collapse occurred during peak hour. Puran Ram, who runs a fast food outlet below the bridge, said it collapsed like a “pack of cards”. “About 7-8 slabs fell one after the other… the first one fell near the station-end of the road,” he said.
This bridge had earlier been in the news after 26/11 convict Ajmal Kasab was photographed on the structure during the Mumbai terror attacks.
The collapse comes less than a year after the G K Gokhale Road overbridge between Andheri and Vile Parle stations crumbled, claiming one life. After that incident, the BMC had carried out a structural audit of 296 bridges, which revealed that 18 needed demolition and reconstruction. However, officials claimed the CSMT foot overbridge was not that list.
In 2017, 22 people were killed and 35 injured after a stampede broke out on a crowded pedestrian bridge connecting Elphinstone and Parel stations.
BJP Minister Vinod Tawde, who visited the spot, said large cement slabs comprising most of the walking surface came crashing down at 7.30 pm. “It is not that the bridge was badly damaged. It needed minor alterations. The state government will bear the medical expense of the injured,” he said.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a high-level probe into the incident and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of each of the six killed.
“The bridge was built in 1980. After the last mishap in the city, a structural audit was ordered… the bridge was deemed fit with minor repairs. If something like this happens after that, it is sad and raises a question on the audit. We will take strict action against those responsible,” Fadnavis said.
Lahu Kurhade, another eyewitness, said the bridge was crowded when it came down. Police said the injured were rushed to GT Hospital and St George Hospital. JCBs were engaged to dismantle the rest of the slabs on the bridge amid fears that they would collapse, too, officials said.
Mohammad Akhtar Ansari, 39, was driving a taxi ferrying passengers from Churchgate to Mahim when he witnessed the accident. “I applied the brakes immediately and the slab fell on the front of the taxi. My passenger, a woman, and I escaped unhurt, he said.
Gaurav Mishra, a daily commuter at CSMT, claimed the bridge would vibrate when people walked on it. “I had a fear that such a thing would happen some day. The BMC made some cosmetic repairs some time ago and clearly it was not enough,” he said.
Former Congress MP for South Mumbai, Milind Deora, demanded that a case of murder be filed against BMC engineers and auditors who had certified that the bridge was safe. “There is a crisis of negligence in the city. Ordinary people taking the trains every day aren’t safe and accountability for this needs to be fixed,” he said.