MUMBAI: Eye-witnesses shuddered as they recounted Friday morning's stampede on the foot over-bridge at the Elphinstone Road railway station in Mumbai. As heavy rain lashed the street outside, Manish Mishra watched from the safety of his home near the railway station. His attention turned to the foot-overbridge opposite when there was a loud thud.
He saw a great crush descending down the stairs even as some were climbing up to avoid being drenched.
"It was around 10 am," Mishra said. "There was a loud noise. There were thousands of people cramped into the eight-feet gap on the bridge. There were signs of distress from amidst the crowd. Some people were lying still amidst it all."
Suddenly people in the neighbourhood realised that this was a stampede.
"We took cold water from our home and rushed to the spot and sprinkled it on some of those who had been trampled," Mishra said.
The decades-old over-bridge is used by lakhs of people every day to commute to the commercial area of Parel where several corporate and media offices are located. The presence of a fish and flower market nearby adds to the congestion.
Kishor Thakkar is a regular commuter on the route. He too heard the loud noise, which seemed to have led people in the crush to believe that a part of the bridge had fallen. This added to the panic.
"People on the bridge were in a rush to get down, while those who had alighted from suburban trains were still making their way up," Thakkar said.
What made matters worse was that some who rushed outside stopped midway to stay out of the rain. Thakkar said he alerted the local police at 10.34 am but by the time they arrived lives had been lost.
He put the blame for the accident on the railways. "We wrote to the railway administration six months ago to do something about the shoddy state of affairs here," he said.
Aaditya, a teenager who lives in the same building as Manish Mishra, said he was eating when the stampede took place. "At first, I thought it was the usual crowd. Suddenly all hell broke loose," he added.
Dhananjay Sahani reached the Elphinstone Road railway station a few minutes after the stampede. He shivered as he recalled the scene. "Today is the most dreadful day of my life," he said.
"I woke up late and missed my train. I was cursing myself while I was on the train. But, when I reached Elphinstone Road station, I realized I had escaped a horrible accident," Dhananjay said. "I felt awful," he said.
As people at the exit of the foot over-bridge paused to stay out of the rain, the new arrival at the back built up to a solid crush.
"I use the bridge daily. It is always crowded. Had the authorities looked into the overcrowding on the bridge and built a new bridge, we wouldn't have had this," he said.