A major portion of the foot overbridge (FOB) connecting the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus to BT Lane, across the busy DN Road in Mumbai, collapsed at 7.35 pm on Thursday night, killing six people and injuring 34. The incident took place during rush hour and could have led to many more deaths.
The tragedy comes only eight months after another bridge had collapsed in suburban Andheri in 2018, in which five people were killed, and six months after the structure was considered "fit" after a safety audit by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Nothing much seems to have really changed then between the two accidents, even as a joint safety audit, by the railways, the BMC and the IIT-Bombay, of all 445 bridges in Mumbai was announced by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal in 2018 as part of efforts to improve safety. Thursday's incident, unsurprisingly, raises serious questions about the nature of the audit itself.
An official, speaking to The Indian Express, said the ill-fated FOB is around 35-year-old and was undertaken for repair in 2010-11.
"In 2016, under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the northern end of the bridge was taken up for beautification but not repairs. The plan included changing the tiles of the bridge and new paint," the official is quoted saying.
The report also states that the audit report was submitted in September 2018 to the civic commissioner but it was made made public only after Gokhale road overbridge had collapsed in Andheri, killing two persons. Also, it stated that the FOB only required "minor repairs".
The bridge, which falls within the jurisdiction of the MRA Marg Police Station, is just a two-minute walk from the BMC headquarters.
Another official was quoted by The Hindu as saying that the bridge "appears to have had serious structural issues since the cross beams collapsed along with the concrete". The official went on to add that "in a slab collapse, the frame would have remained intact".
Pradipta Banerjee of the IIT-Bombay, who headed the bridge inspection team in the aftermath of the Andheri bridge collapse was also quoted by The Hindu as saying, "If a bridge is found to have any issues then it should be shut to the public until such time as the repairs are conducted." The team had found the road overbridges at Lower Parel and Kalyan unsafe and asked for them to be shut down immediately.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has announced compensation of Rs five lakh each to the family of the deceased and said a high-level committee will probe the circumstances under which the 40-year-old bridge collapsed. "The injured persons will get Rs 50,000 each and the government will bear the cost of their treatment," Fadnavis had said, adding that officials found responsible for the incident will be booked.