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An inquiry report on the September 29 Elphinstone bridge stampede in Mumbai that killed 23 people has blamed heavy rain, confusion and the resulting panic for the tragedy, officials said today. The panel, headed by the Western Railway chief security officer, submitted its report to WR General Manager Anil Kumar today after recording statements of 30 commuters who were injured. It has also examined video footage of the incident, officials said. According to the report, the stampede was caused by heavy rains which forced people outside the ticket counters to rush to the already jammed staircase for cover. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said here that he was "pained" that the tender for the new bridge was not floated on time despite being approved. "It pained me when I saw the file where a foot-overbridge which was approved but it took months to finalise the design and prepare the documentation to tender it.
It is a wake up call for all my colleagues in the railways. They will have to bring speed and efficiency into our system," said Goyal, refusing to comment later on the probe report. According to the report, the constant flow of passengers arriving at the station compounded the problem. The report said people with heavy luggage lost their balance because of which the stampede may have occurred. The probe also said none of the witnesses supported the claim of a short circuit on the bridge leading to the chaos. The inquiry panel has recommended that passengers be prevented from carrying heavy luggage during peak hours. The movement of commuters, mainly vendors, carrying baskets stuffed with goods during peak hours should also be restricted. Other recommendations by the panel include relocating the elevated booking office to widen the staircase (the elevated booking office is adjacent to the staircase where the stampede occurred). An additional staircase can also be provided, the panel said in the report. It has suggested that officials use a quick mode of communication apart from mobile phones to ensure timely reaction. Wireless handsets can be provided to station and security staff, the report said. On September 29, 23 people were killed in the rush hour stampede on a narrow overbridge linking Elphinstone Road and Parel suburban stations during heavy rain.
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