On Tuesday afternoon, Dwarka Sharma, 47, lay on a stretcher at Cooper Hospital in Vile Parle, a suburb of Mumbai, watching nurses, doctors and police officers arguing about who should sign his admission papers.
Sharma has no relatives in Mumbai. On Tuesday morning, the security guard had been taking a foot overbridge at Andheri station on his way to work when a section of the structure collapsed onto the railway tracks beneath. Sharma screamed for help, but it took more than 15 minutes before he got any assistance. “People saw me but nobody was coming towards me until a policeman saw me and got me out,” he said.
Sharma’s legs were fractured. He is among the five survivors of the bridge collapse that disrupted the movement of trains on the city’s western line for several hours on Tuesday.
After several minutes of arguing, a nurse scolded the police officer who had refused to take Sharma to the orthopaedic ward, where he was to be treated. In the midst of all this, Sharma repeatedly asked for his mobile phone to call his family in Rajasthan.
He was also worried about his friend, Girdharilal Singh, 40, with whom he shares a room in Andheri. They both work as security guards at a private company in Andheri East, where they were headed in the morning. “We walk on the bridge every day to work,” said Sharma, who was wearing a blood-stained white T-shirt sporting the slogan, “I am Rajasthan, I am the future.”
On Tuesday afternoon, officers of the National Disaster Response Force, Mumbai Police and Railways continued to work to remove the rubble from the railway track. At the time this article was published in the evening, they do not suspect that there were any more people buried in the debris.
In the ICU
Sharma’s friend Girdharilal Singh was crying in pain at the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. He lay on a stretcher with several flies resting on his bandaged hands. “We were walking and the ground just fell and I was on the railway tracks,” said Singh. Besides fracturing his hands, Singh has also hurt his spine. He had been given supplemental oxygen. Singh recalled being lifted out of the debris but remembers nothing after that. “My legs were shaking,” he said.
Both Singh and Sharma earn about Rs 15,000 per month. Like Sharma, Singh also hails from Rajasthan and has no relatives in Mumbai.
‘Her son is waiting’
In the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, another survivor, Asmita Katkar, 35, a resident of Juhu in Andheri, is fighting for her life.
As she has been doing since June, Katkar was walking home after taking her six-year-old son Siddhesh to school in Andheri (East). “She is a devoted mother and always went to drop and pick her child,” said her mother-in-law, Sulochna Katkar. The older woman expressed regret that she had not insisted that the mother and son should travel by autorickshaw in the morning. “It was raining heavily so I told her to take an autorickshaw and come home,” said Sulochna Katkar.
Doctors said that both Asmita Katkar’s upper arms are fractured and she has also suffered trauma on her head. She is on ventilator support and doctors said that her condition is critical.
On Tuesday afternoon, at the time she normally goes to pick up her son from school, she was undergoing a surgery. “Siddhesh always wants his mother,” said Sulochna Katkar. “He will be waiting for her.”
Helpless and agonised
Harish Koli, 45, an accountant with a five-star hotel in Bandra Kurla Complex, suffered injuries on the platform. When he alighted from the train in Andheri, he got caught in the chaos and fell down. His left hand is fractured and will require a surgery. “I can’t remember anything,” he said. “I just got off the platform and the next second, I was lying on the ground.”
The fifth survivor, Manoj Mehta was shifted to Nanavati Hospital in Vile Parle at the request of his relatives. He has sustained a severe head injury and trauma to his chest. His left hand is also fractured.