Afzal Shamim Bubere, 21, is a class VIII dropout. On Wednesday, it was his sheer presence of mind that saved lives of several hundreds, if not thousands.
It was around 7.45 am, when Bubere noticed that two tracks between Badlapur and Vangani stations on the Karjat sector had sunk in at least five feet. He immediately ran around 300 metres to alert the railway gateman. His job was not done with that.
Before rushing himself to inform the station masters, the gateman, Dhondu Shankar Virle, assigned Bubere the job of stopping two peak-hour local trains — one that had left Badlapur and the other, Vangani — before either could reach the danger spot. Both stations were three km away on either side of the sunken spot.
Virle gave Bubere two red flags to carry out the safety operation. “As per the direction of the gateman, I, and two villagers, carried the red flags and ran on opposite directions to stop the trains. We succeeded in bringing to a halt both — a 12-coach train plying towards Mumbai and a nine-coach going towards Karjat. Both were barely 300m away from the spot,” Bubere told DNA.
Bubere, a resident of Goregaon village in Vangani, said, “I, as usual, had gone to fish in a ‘nullah’ with a tribal youth near the railway tracks around 7.45 am. After fishing for half an hour, I suddenly noticed a five-feet deep ballast in the nullah. I panicked and told my friend to inform the railway gate man. But he was so scared, he ran away from the place.”
Sriniwas Mudgerikar, CPRO of Central Railway, said, “Afzal Bubere and gateman Dhondu Shankar Virle will be suitably rewarded soon. The five feet deep ballast were washed away because of heavy rains and strong water currents.”