On Saturday, an uncharacteristic silence enveloped the casualty wing of Mumbai’s KEM Hospital, where victims of the previous day’s stampede at Elphinstone Road station were taken. Twenty two people had died in the tragedy in the midtown Mumbai office district on Friday. Thirty two commuters of the 39 admitted with injuries are still in hospital, many in shock and unable to sleep. “Our doctors are counselling the patients,” said Dr Avinash Supe, the hospital’s dean.
Two of the patients decided to seek discharge from KEM against medical advice and moved to other hospitals. On Saturday afternoon, Satyendra Kanojia, 35, who had been on ventilator support, died at the hospital, taking the death toll in the tragedy to 23.
How are the others doing?
‘I could not sleep the whole night’
Wasim Shaikh, 30
Wasim Shaikh works in Vashi. On Friday, he had left home in Mumbra for a job interview at an office in Indiabulls Finance Center on Elphinstone Road. He never made it. “Now, I don’t know if I will get another opportunity,” he said.
Shaikh has suffered abrasions to his head and is having difficulty breathing. “I had a headache all night, the screams are echoing in my head still,” he said. Shaikh lay in his mother’s lap. She pressed his head, praying that the “bad memories” leave him soon.
‘My family is very scared’
Iklesh Kumar Chaudhary, 17
Iklesh Kumar Chaudhary came to Mumbai from Allahabad a month ago, looking for a job. Chaudhary’s employer has assured him that he can take a few days off to recuperate. “I came to this city to make money and support my family,” he said. Pinned down by the weight of several people who fell on him, Chaudhary was hurt in the chest. “My hands and legs stopped moving,” he said, recounting the horror.
There were not enough ambulances at Elphinstone Road station to ferry victims to the hospital, so someone picked up Chaudhary and put him in a taxi. “My family is very scared, they want me to go back,” he said. “But what will I do in my village. I have to stay in Mumbai to make a living.”
“I am lucky’
Piyush Thakkar, 23
For the last four years, Piyush Thakkar has taken the congested foot overbridge at Elphinstone Road station to go to his office. Lying in his bed in ward six of KEM Hospital, Thakkar recalled how fellow commuters would always murmur that the Indian Railways would expand the bridge only after 20-25 people died. “I never thought that I would witness this mishap,” he said.
Thakkar, a resident of Ghatkopar in eastern Mumbai, held up a newspaper to show visiting relatives and friends a photograph of the incident. He was in it. “I am lucky to have survived,” he said. “I jumped over the railing to save my life. Fortunately someone held me and I didn’t fall on the ground.”
Thakkar’s brother Rajnesh has petitioned the Government Railway Police asking them to expand the bridge. “They told us that there is no space to expand it,” he said. “They gave permission to all these builders to construct these high-rise offices but forgot to expand the station.”
‘I don’t want to come back to Mumbai’
Jeetendra Singh, 18
Jeetendra Singh came to Mumbai from Uttar Pradesh two months ago. He lives with his brother in Sion and has a job at a wholesale shop on Elphinstone Road. He was going to the shop when he was caught in the stampede. “Last thing I remember is vomiting blood,” he recalled. A few days ago, Singh had booked train tickets home.
“I came here to earn money, not to die,” said Singh, who has suffered a pelvic fracture and may need several months to recuperate. “I don’t want to come back.”