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May 18, 2024

Elphinstone Stampede to Andheri Bridge Collapse: A List of Mumbai Tragedies After Heavy Rains

Rain-related incidents in the city are once again in focus after a massive illegal billboard collapsed in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar area, killing eight people and injuring at least 100. While rescue operations are still underway, Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde ordered a structural audit of all such structures saying those found to be unauthorised must be taken down.

But, even as blame game over land ownership and permissions is on between the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and Indian Railways in the latest tragedy, it brings to the fore how lack of timely audits and inspections by the authorities, as well as construction of unauthorised structures can result in the loss of lives, serious injuries and damage to public property.

Here are major rain-related incidents in Mumbai that have grabbed headlines in the recent past:

Major wall collapse incidents in 2021 & 2019

Building and wall collapse incidents caused by heavy and incessant rain have become common in Mumbai. In such cases, constructions like slums and shanties are the most affected.

In 2021, at least 17 people were killed in Chembur in a wall collapse incident, while seven slum residents were killed in Vikhroli when five shanties collapsed in a landslide. That year, Rs 2 lakh was pledged from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund to the next of kin of those killed due to the wall collapses in Mumbai, while Rs 50,000 was disbursed for the injured.

Rain fury claimed 22 lives and injured at least 80 after a wall collapsed in Malad in July 2019. The incident took place when a compound wall in Pimpripada in Malad East area collapsed and people living in shanties adjacent to the wall got trapped under the debris. Opposition parties had lashed out at the ruling Shiv Sena and BJP for the loss of lives due to wall collapse incidents in Mumbai, attributing them to “corruption”.

Andheri bridge collapse, 2018

Two persons were killed when a section of the old Gokhale bridge caved in at Andheri station following incessant rain in July 2018. The bridge on SV Road connects Andheri East and Andheri West stations and is used by thousands of commuters each day.

The BMC and the state government received a lot of criticism due to its misalignment. Before its collapse in 2018, the bridge was facilitating big vehicles. Under repairs since the collapse, the bridge was reopened to the public in February this year, but only partially and for lighter vehicles.

Ghatkopar helicopter crash, 2018

Five persons, including one pedestrian, were killed in June 2018 when a chartered planed crash landed in Mumbai’s densely populated Ghatkopar area. The casualties included the two pilots, a pregnant aircraft maintenance engineer, junior technician and a man, who was burnt fatally when some burning fuel fell on him. Three others were injured in the incident.

According to a report in Times of India, the probable causes of the fatal crash during a test flight were engine problems, coupled with deteriorating weather, during which the aircraft banked unexpectedly and the pilots lost their spatial awareness, as per the final probe report.

The families of the deceased rejected the report and deemed it suspicious. The Beechcraft KingAir C-90A, belonging to UY Aviation, took off from Juhu airport and crashed in Ghatkopar, killing all four crew members and one pedestrian on the ground.

Elphinstone stampede, 2017

At least 23 people and 39 people injured were killed when a stampede took place at the Elphinstone Road railway station in Mumbai on September 29, 2017. The incident took place in the morning rush hours on a footbridge after people rushed to board trains as it rained heavily outside.

Four trains arrived simultaneously and numerous people were already crammed into the bridge, taking shelter from the rain, when they rushed forward. The stampede is likely to have been caused due to a person tripping and falling over, and people panicking due to a certain rumour that the bridge was about to collapse.

Eyewitnesses, however, said the situation worsened because the police and emergency personnel did not respond in time or implement crowd control measures. The then railway minister, Piyush Goyal, had announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the victims. According to hospital reports, most people died of chest compression and haemorrhage due to injuries.

Mumbai airport crash-landing, 2023

A private jet carrying six passengers and two crew members veered off the runway on landing at Mumbai airport amid heavy rain and low visibility in September last year. The impact was such that the aircraft split in two but no casualties were reported even as the two pilots were hospitalised in critical condition.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the VSR Ventures Learjet 45 aircraft VT-DBL was operating from Visakhapatnam to Mumbai and was making an attempt to land, but the visibility was severely compromised due to heavy rain.

(With inputs from Yesha Kotak)

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