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article imageIndia rail minister orders safety upgrades as toll rises to 23

By AFP     Sep 30, 2017 in World

India's railways minister Saturday told station managers "to spend whatever is necessary" to ensure passenger safety as the death toll from a stampede on a railway footbridge in Mumbai rose to 23.

Railway officials said the accident happened after hundreds of people took shelter Friday on the station footbridge to escape a heavy downpour.

Most of those killed were crushed to death, some suffocated and others fell from the narrow bridge. Around three dozen injured were also rushed to nearby hospitals.

The accident has raised new safety questions about one of the world's biggest rail networks, which is struggling to upgrade infrastructure and safety after a series of deadly crashes in recent years.

Railways Minister Piyush Goyal Saturday announced steps to assess and improve safety on the Mumbai suburban network, which carries millions of people around the country's financial hub every day.

Goyal said all Mumbai stations would be inspected within a week and new footbridges were being approved for overcrowded stations.

"To eliminate bureaucracy and delays, I have empowered GMs (general managers) to spend whatever is necessary on safety," he said on Twitter.

"Additional escalators sanctioned at crowded Mumbai suburban stations and thereafter for all high traffic stations," the minister said after chairing a meeting of top railway department officials.

Goyal, who was appointed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month to replace the previous railways minister following a series of accidents, has pledged to invest billions of dollars to make the network safer.

Local trains are the lifeline for the 20 million people of Mumbai
Local trains are the lifeline for the 20 million people of Mumbai
INDRANIL MUKHERJEE, AFP/File

Nearly $8 billion has been promised to upgrade the suburban trains in Mumbai that are a lifeline for city's 20 million people.

Some 7.5 million passengers commute in nearly 2,500 trains daily but hundreds die every year due to losing their grip on the doors, falling while trying to get into packed compartments and hitting electric poles outside.

Official figures say some 3,400 people died in 2016 either from falling off the trains or while crossing the tracks of what is the world's most overcrowded suburban rail network.

The toll from the stampede rose to 23 as another person died of his injuries at a city hospital Saturday.

"Rest all are receiving treatment and 11 have been discharged from the KEM hospital," Tanaji Kamble, spokesman for the local civic corporation's disaster management cell, told AFP.

The stampede is the latest disaster to hit Indian Railways -- the world's fourth largest network.

Last month, 23 people were killed after a train derailed in a northern city. Nearly 150 died in November in a crash.

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