Monday, November 29, 1999

Chaos at New Delhi station after 2 killed in stampede

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New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) Shoes, water bottles and luggage were strewn all across the platform and people were frantically searching for their missing family members minutes after a stampede at the New Delhi railway station Sunday left a woman and a boy dead and many injured.'I am searching for my mother and brother. We had to catch the Vikramshila Express. I don't know if they have boarded the train or they are among the injured,' said Amit Jha, a labourer who works at a construction site in east Delhi.The stampede occurred when hundreds of people rushed to catch a Bihar-bound train and fell over one another on a foot overbridge, the authorities and witnesses said.While most passengers insisted it was a last-minute change of platform that led to the tragedy, a senior railway official insisted it all began when some people tripped over the foot overbridge linking platforms 12 and 13 during the afternoon rush.'When I reached the platform, my train was about to leave and I started running. There was a huge rush and I lost control and fell on the ground. People were running helter skelter and women and children were crying for help,' said Ramji Sahai, who had a confirmed ticket for Patna.Dazed survivors complained that there was no help from the authorities for a long time.A young man who witnessed the deaths said: 'Mostly women and children got trapped in the melee. I tried to rescue a woman who was crying in pain. But it was so suffocating. People ran here and there to save their lives, leaving behind their belongings. It was touch and go for me too.'The tragedy led to the deaths of a 35-year-old woman, Soni, and an unidentified 14-year-old boy, both of whom were declared dead when taken to the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narain Hospital (LNJP).Many people were injured although only about 10 were taken to hospitals. Many preferred to treat their own injuries.While there were conflicting accounts on how the stampede occurred, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee announced a compensation for the dead and the injured.

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