New Delhi/Kolkata: A woman and a boy were killed in a stampede at the busy New Delhi Railway Station on Sunday when hundreds of people rushed to catch a Bihar-bound train and fell over one another on a foot-over-bridge, the authorities and witnesses here said.
"Two people have died and 15 were injured. This is an unfortunate incident. I am shocked.... However, the situation is now under control," Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters in Kolkata.
Most passengers said a last-minute change of platform of the train led to the tragedy, a version later corroborated by the Railway officials.
A 35-year-old woman, Soni, and an unidentified 14-year-old boy were killed in the tragedy. Both were declared "brought dead" at 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, said.
A large number of people were injured in the incident although only about 10 were taken to hospitals. Many preferred to treat their own injuries.
Vivek Sahai, member (traffic) at the Railway Board, said the 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 pm 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.
Dazed survivors complained that there was no help from the authorities for a long time.
A young man who witnessed the incident 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."
Railway police and Civil Defence personnel eventually came to the rescue of the injured. When the platforms were cleared of people, 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.
Railway Minister Banerjee announced Rs 2 lakh each for the kin of two people killed in the incident and ordered a high-level inquiry to know whether it was a result of "sabotage, rumour or negligence".
While Rs 50,000 will be given to each of those who suffered serious injuries, Rs 15,000 will be given to those with minor injuries, she added.
The minister said an alert has been issued across all railway stations keeping in mind summer vacation that is leading to a huge rush.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit also mourned the deaths.
A similar incident took place at the New Delhi Railway Station on November 13, 2004. Five women died and several were injured when people fell over each other at the foot-over-bridge in a rush to catch a Bihar-bound train.
Apart from New Delhi Railway Station, the national capital has three other major stations - Nizamuddin Railway Station, the Old Delhi station, and Sarai Rohilla station.