An over-bridge at a railway station in Mumbai’s Andheri suburb collapsed on Tuesday during heavy rains, disrupting train services, injuring five people and putting the spotlight once again on the creaky infrastructure of this metropolis.
A major disaster was also averted as a packed train that was to pass Andheri station stopped a few metres from the collapsed bridge, thanks to motorman Chandrashekhar B Sawant’s quick action in stopping the train when he saw a portion of the bridge collapsing.
“I immediately applied emergency brakes and the train stopped,” Sawant told reporters. “The collapse was accompanied by a big thud sound of debris falling,” he said.
The Brihamumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said five people were injured, including two seriously. A part of the 47-year-old Gokhale over-bridge came down at 7.30 am, before the commuter rush hour had started, which was the likely reason the casualty figure remained low. Normally, thousands of commuters use the bridge, which connects Andheri East and Andheri West stations.
The falling bridge entangled with overhead wires which fell on the tracks below, halting local train services on the Western line, officials said, causing immense inconvenience to Mumbaikars for whom local trains are a lifeline.
Some long distance trains were also cancelled or rescheduled.
Only nine months ago, in September, a foot over-bridge linking Elphinstone Road and Parel suburban railway stations had collapsed, leading to a stampede in which 22 people were killed and several injured.
“Incessant rains apparently caused cracks in the (bridge), resulting in its collapse. Thankfully, no train was passing on the track under the bridge at that time,” said a civic official.
Mumbai’s famous tiffin carriers, the ‘Dabbawalas’, who use local trains to ferry hundreds of thousands of lunch boxes from homes, were also unable to deliver as pounding rain lashed the city, clogging several roads with shin-high water.
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal visited the accident site and ordered an inquiry by the Commissioner of Rail Safety whose report would have to be submitted within 15 days.
Expressing regret over the accident, he said it was “very unfortunate” and “most unexpected”.
He said around 700 employees of the railways, helped by some experts from Delhi and Lucknow, were working on the restoration work and the train services will be resumed completely by tonight.
Goyal said that during the next six months, a joint safety audit will be conducted by the Railways, the BMC and the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, at the 445 road over-bridges, foot over-bridges and bridges over pipelines in Mumbai as part of efforts to improve safety for the commuters.
Western Railways spokesman Ravinder Bhakar told PTI that overhead equipment above the tracks was damaged and a team of engineers is working to restore services.