Kasab bridge cave-in kills 5

Two concrete slabs of a foot overbridge outside Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus railway station collapsed

By Arnab Ganguly in Mumbai
  • Published 15.03.19, 3:21 AM
  • Updated 15.03.19, 3:21 AM
  • 3 mins read
The yawning gap on the overbridge in Mumbai after two large concrete slabs collapsed on Thursday Picture by PTI

Two concrete slabs of a foot overbridge outside Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus railway station collapsed during evening rush hour on Thursday, killing five persons under a structure Ajmal Kasab had used during the 26/11 terror attack.

The overbridge, which the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and the Maharashtra government claimed was in need of “minor repairs”, caved in around 7.30pm, when a number of vehicles were waiting at a traffic signal close by. The toll could have been higher had the cars started passing under the bridge.

At least 29 people were injured and are being treated at St. George and Gokuldas Tejpal hospitals.

The deceased are Apoorva Prabhu, 35, Ranjana Tambe, 40, both nurses at the nearby Gokuldas Tejpal Hospital who were on their way to report for the night shift, Sarika Kulkarni, 35, Zahid Shiraj Khan, 32, and Tapendra Singh, 35.

Mumbai police tweeted around 7.45pm: “Foot overbridge connecting CST platform 1 north end with BT lane near Times of India building has collapsed. Injured persons are being shifted to hospitals. Traffic affected. Commuters to use alternate routes. Senior officers are on spot.”

A 45-member team from the National Disaster Response Force stationed at suburban Andheri was rushed to join the rescue operation being carried out jointly by Mumbai police, the BMC, the fire brigade and the railways.

The municipal corporation-managed overbridge, known as Himalaya Bridge and constructed by the railways, had been used by Pakistani terrorist Kasab and his associates during the 2008 terror strikes to cross the railway station, formerly known as Victoria Terminus, and move towards Cama Hospital. The structure is called “Kasab bridge” since then.

On any given day, the area around the railway station is chock-a-block with vehicles and pedestrians. Several stretches of roads are blocked because of Metro constructions, adding to the chaos as innumerable vehicles ply on the roads and pedestrians rush to the station by using the multiple foot overbridges and subways.

Witnesses said more than 20 pedestrians were crossing the Himalaya Bridge when the two chunks came crashing down.

“There was a loud sound, a thick cloud of dust and screams. We could not see anything for a few minutes. Then we realised that the bridge had fallen,” said Jai Shinde, a witness.

Another witness, Imran Khan, said he and four of his friends rescued seven persons, including three women who were lying on the road.

Civic sources said the Himalaya Bridge was repaired in 2016. After another foot overbridge caved in at Andheri last year, a safety audit had been carried out six months ago by the municipal corporation, the railways and IIT Bombay and the Himalaya Bridge had cleared the test.

With the Lok Sabha polls barely a month away, the Shiv Sena, the restive BJP ally that runs the cash-rich municipal corporation, pointed fingers at the railways.

“Our councillor Ganpat Sanap had written to railway officials six months ago (mentioning that the bridge needed repairs), but they took no notice. A thorough probe will be conducted and those responsible will not be spared,” said Subhash Desai, Sena leader and Maharashtra industries minister.

BJP leader and state minister Vinod Tawde said the bridge needed minor repairs.

“The railways and the BMC will jointly probe the cause of the accident and find out who are responsible. The bridge was not damaged but needed minor repairs. It must be probed why it was not shut down for the repair work that was to be carried out,” Tawde said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the deaths. “Deeply anguished by the loss of lives due to the foot overbridge accident in Mumbai. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. Wishing that the injured recover at the earliest. The Maharashtra government is providing all possible assistance to those affected,” he tweeted.

Announcing financial compensation for the victims, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP said he had ordered a high-level inquiry.

“A structural audit was carried out and the bridge was certified safe. But this accident raises questions on the audit itself. An inquiry will be conducted and strictest action will be taken,” Fadnavis said.

The Maharashtra government will pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the kin of each of the dead, Rs 50,000 to each of those injured and also bear their hospital expenses.

The Congress nominee for the South Mumbai Lok Sabha seat, Milind Deora, said the officials who audited the bridge should be identified and punished.

“The bridge is under the BMC. Six months back an audit was carried out and the bridge was declared safe. Who were these officers? They should be identified and slapped with the murder charge. The government must lodge an FIR,” he said.

This is the third major accident involving a bridge in Mumbai, which is heavily dependent on the railways, since September 2017.

In September 2017, a stampede at the Elphinstone station (now called Prabhadevi) following rumours that a bridge had collapsed had left 23 dead. In July 2018, Andheri’s Gokhale bridge had caved in, claiming two lives.