In Pics: Major chaos at Lower Parel after bridge closure, possibility of stampede looms

In Pics: Major chaos at Lower Parel after bridge closure, possibility of stampede looms 6
The overcrowding at the station has all the makings of a stampede, commuters said (Image attributions below)

The closure of Delisle bridge-Parel ROB (Lower Parel railway bridge) on Tuesday morning led to major chaos in the area, with motorists facing major traffic snarls and pedestrians scampering for space.

Stampede alert

Over the last few years, Lower Parel station has seen a significant rise in passenger activity thanks to the surge in the number of commercial complexes in its vicinity.

In Pics: Major chaos at Lower Parel after bridge closure, possibility of stampede looms 1
Visuals of overcrowding at Lower Parel station

As a result, thousands of commuters take the road-over-bridge daily to travel from Lower Parel station to their respective offices or workplaces.

Even when the bridge was functional, the sheer number of pedestrians often led to crowding at the station and its exits. With its closure, the problem amplified and led to severe overcrowding both inside and outside the premises.

Many commuters complained that no railway or other officials were present at the station to regulate traffic.

“The exit staircase was packed with people, but no one was present to regulate the crowd. Traffic police were stationed at the other end, but railways should have deployed officials to control the crowd,” Akash Mane, an HR manager with a multinational, told Local Press Co.

In Pics: Major chaos at Lower Parel after bridge closure, possibility of stampede looms 4
Visuals of overcrowding at Lower Parel station

The overcrowding at the station’s exit had all the makings of a stampede, a tragedy the city’s near eight million commuters are more than familiar with.

“The staircase was so tightly packed with commuters that a single event could trigger panic and lead to countless casualties. This sort of crowding is all too familiar for Mumbai’s commuters, who still remember what transpired at Prabhadevi (erstwhile Elphinstone Road) station last year,” said Bhushan Dave, who travels from Thane to Lower Parel every day.

The crowd consisted of many senior citizens and school children, which only worsened the situation, Dave added.

Another commuter, Rohit Nate, warned of a similar fate while talking to Local Press Co.

In Pics: Major chaos at Lower Parel after bridge closure, possibility of stampede looms 3
Visuals of overcrowding at Lower Parel station

Motorists face delays

Since the bridge was also closed for vehicular movement, motorists complained of major delays during peak hours today morning.

Rajas Kelkar, a businessman who travels from East to West in about 20 minutes to reach work, had to spend around 1 hour and 35 minutes to travel the same distance today.

Another entrepreneur, Abhishek Khurrana, spent 35 minutes in a cab to travel from Worli naka to Todi Mill due to the closure. His colleague took 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach office from Tardeo, a distance he typically covers in around 30 minutes.

While most understood the rationale behind closing the bridge, some raised questions about the timing.

In Pics: Major chaos at Lower Parel after bridge closure, possibility of stampede looms 7
The bridge was closed at 6 am today

“The bridge has been there for decades. Even if it was deemed unsafe, authorities could have at least given motorists a week’s notice before closing it for traffic completely. If people had more time, they could have gotten used to the alternate routes before the pivotal stretch was cordoned off,” said Rupali K, who runs a boutique near Raghuvanshi Mills.

Incidentally, traffic police had listed alternate routes for motorists yesterday. However, a day’s notice seemed inadequate given the number of people who use it daily.

Several commuters were also inconvenienced as multiple BEST buses had to be diverted in wake of the bridge’s closure.

According to an official update from the undertaking, bus routes 2 Ltd, 52 and 63 were diverted via Bharatmata Cinema and then Dr B A Road and subsequently via Elphinstone Road to ST depot in both directions.

In Pics: Major chaos at Lower Parel after bridge closure, possibility of stampede looms 5
The bridge has been indefinitely shut for motorists and pedestrians

Further, buses plying on route 44, 50, 57 and 166 were diverted from Yadav Chowk to Elphinstone via Senapati Bapat Marg then Elphinstone bridge then via Dr B A Road to Bharatmata Cinema.

Cause for closure

In the aftermath of the Gokhale bridge collapse in Andheri, the British-era bridge was audited by a joint team from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Western Railway (WR) and Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT-B) last week.

During the audit, the team found the bridge to be severely corroded, following which it was decided to close and dismantle the structure.

“In view of safety, it is recommended that the bridge be closed and dismantled as soon as possible,” IIT-B team noted after the inspection.

In Pics: Major chaos at Lower Parel after bridge closure, possibility of stampede looms
The ROB was shut after a joint team of IIT-B, WR and civic officials deemed it unsafe

Meanwhile, WR has invited parties that can reconstruct the bridge in the shortest possible time.

“We have invited applications from structural engineers and consultants who can suggest suitable methodology and techniques for construction of the bridge,” WR chief PRO Ravinder Bhakar said.

The bridge was closed for vehicles and pedestrians from 6 am on July 24.

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