MUMBAI: In yet another bridge collapse near the city’s suburban railway stations, the nodal foot over-bridge at the northern end of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) came crashing down on Thursday evening. Six commuters were killed and at least 34 injured. The number of casualties is expected to rise.
A safety audit of the structure by the civic authority last year had declared the bridge “safe”. A Central Railway spokesperson said, “The collapsed portion did connect the station but it was in the BMC area and constructed and maintained by the civic authorities.”
At 7.31pm, there was a loud thud. The flooring of the ‘Himalaya bridge’ on the arterial D N Road had given way, taking down scores of rush-hour commuters from a height of 35 feet.
CM Devendra Fadnavis announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the dead and Rs 50,000 for the injured.“I have ordered a high-level inquiry. Such an incident raises questions about the audit,” he said.
The city police has lodged an FIR against some BMC and CR officials for negligence leading to death. They may also add a charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder after ascertaining details about the role of the BMC and railways.
Cops book BMC, rly officials for death by negligence, may add culpable homicide
Shortly after the CST footover bridge disaster, joint commissioner of police (law and order) Deven Bharati said police had registered a case of causing death by negligence under Section 304 (A) of the Indian Penal Code against concerned officials of the BMC and railways. “More stringent sections will be applied if additional facts emerge during the course of the investigation,” he said. Another senior officer said they may add the section of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. A senior officer said welding points at the girders appeared to have rusted and will be examined as a cause of the collapse.
Given that thousands of commuters used this 30-year-old bridge every day, the BMC decided to puncture the road divider underneath to enable railway passengers to cross. A road divider approximately 4 feet in height was demolished to create the crossing after the tragedy in the evening. The BMC also summoned its structural auditor to determine if the remaining portion of the bridge should be razed. An earlier civic audit in 2017 had shown that the structure needed “minor repairs.”
Meanwhile amid the chaos, passersby including TOI employees rushed to help scores of injured people who lay helpless beneath the rubble and upon the road. The TOI office is located across the road from CSMT. Multiple willing hands pulled concrete slabs aside, halted passing vehicles and waved them on their way to the nearby GT and St George hospitals. Others began ringing police, disaster management and civic authorities to seek help. Himalaya Bridge has been the key exit point for passengers heading towards Crawford Market, BMC and the police commissionerate.
Personnel from Azad Maidan police station, MRA Marg and L T Marg responded and began to cordon off the area, watchful lest the remaining portion of the bridge should fall too. Several onlookers wanted to get closer in the craze to shoot pictures and selfies, and the authorities tried to dissuade them. Eyewitnesses said that most of the injured had been moved to hospital by the time the time BMC’s disaster management and fire brigade personnel arrived and got their act together. After a brief delay, police barricaded traffic to and from JJ flyover, Crawford Market and CSMT.
PM Narendra Modi and Union home minister Rajnath Singh tweeted their condolences. State education minister Vinod Tawde, who arrived at the site, said an inquiry would be conducted jointly by the railway and the BMC, and the guilty would be “sacked.” Congress’s former MP Milind Deora demanded that an FIR be lodged under Section 302 against BMC officers and structural auditors for giving a “wrong report.”
Few know the bridge leading out from CSMT station by its official name of Himalaya Bridge. For years, commuters had noticed the structure shake beneath their feet, especially during peak-hour pedestrian movement, or when trains passed beneath the portion leading to the platforms. The authorities had relaid the tiles in 2016, but this problem persisted. On Thursday, their worst fears were realised as the structure collapsed, causing pedestrians to plunge from a height of 35ft.
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