Monday, November 29, 1999

Stampede kills woman, boy at New Delhi railway station

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New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) A woman and a boy were killed in a stampede at the New Delhi railway station Sunday 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.The tragedy led to the deaths of a 35-year-old woman, Soni, and an unidentified 14-year-old boy, both of who were declared dead when brought to the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narain Hospital (LNJP).'Two people were brought dead while seven people are undergoing treatment,' Amit Banerjee, medical superintendent of the LNJP hospital, told IANS.Several people were injured in the incident although only about 10 were taken to different hospitals. Many preferred to treat their own injuries.Despite conflicting accounts on how the stampede occurred, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee announced a compensation for the dead and the injured.Vivek Sahai, Member (Traffic) at the Railway Board, said the railway authorities were able to reconstruct the sequence of events after monitoring the media accounts of those who survived the stampede.He said the Vikramshila Express left five minutes behind schedule at 2.50 p.m. from platform 12, instead of its normal platform 13. Shortly thereafter, crowds surged towards the stationary Sapth Kranti Express on platform 13, which normally leaves from platform 12.This eleventh-hour change of platforms, some officials suggested, was the root of the problem because it forced hundreds of people, holding heavy luggage, to rush from one platform to another in order to board the Sapth Kranti Express.Sahai said there was no problem with the arrival of the Sapth Kranti Express on the platform. 'But we feel very sorry over what has happened,' he told reporters. He added that an enquiry had been set up to know what happened and take corrective measures.Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit also mourned the deaths.S.K. Budhalakoti, general manager of Northern Railway, however said earlier that the stampede arose out of the platform change and happened at a time when both platforms 12 and 13 were overflowing with people.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.'Delhi Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said there were huge crowds on both platforms. 'The news of change of platforms spread panic at the railway station,' he too said.Northern Railway spokesperson Anand Swaroop said earlier that the stampede occurred when people tried to board the trains through windows because of the heavy rush.Railway police and Civil Defence personnel eventually came to the rescue of the injured. When the platforms were cleared of people, dozens of footwear, water bottles and luggage were strewn all over.One man who survived complained that he was unable to breath. 'There were not enough policemen to guide us,' he said.

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