On Monday night, Naba Kumar Sarma, 32, set out for Tihu in Nalbari district to get married to his love of seven years the 26-year-old Gitumoni Sarma. The groom and his cheerful wedding party of 38 family members and friends boarded the bus at 9pm from Lokhora in Guwahati, but barely two hours into the journey the celebrations were over, the groom was dead and more than half the wedding party was wiped out.
The bus was crossing a wooden bridge over a rivulet in Rajabari, 45 km west of Guwahati, when it hit the railing. The railing gave away, and the bus fell into the 50-feet deep rivulet drowning the groom, his father and 26 others.
Gitumoni was an employee in the sales tax department, and Naba Kumar was a contractor. Gitumoni’s family had originally arranged for her to be married to someone else, but eventually changed their mind and went along with their daughter’s choice.
According to Pallav Bhattacharya, IG (CW range) of Assam Police, it was the locals who spearheaded the rescue operation. They rushed to the spot with lanterns and fished out 24 bodies, and saved the lives of eight passengers. Two more passengers, who had jumped out of the bus, managed to survive.
Locals were upset with the National Disaster Rescue Force (NDRF), which arrived at 5am. Sources of NDRF, however, said they could not start rescue operations at night due to the non-availability of night vision equipment. The NDRF’s operations continued from 6am to 2pm, during which time they fished out four more bodies.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi condoled the deaths and ordered a high-level inquiry into the accident. The state government announced a compensation of R1 lakh for the next of kin of the dead and R50,000 to those injured. The chief minister also ordered construction of a concrete bridge.
Tanker burst claims five lives
Four villagers were charred to death and 16 others injured when an oil tanker headed for Jorhat burst into flames in Badulipara in Golaghat district early on Tuesday morning.
When the tanker carrying naphtha (flammable liquid) hit an electric pole and overturned on NH 37, villagers gathered at the spot to steal fuel from it. As they were taking out fuel from the tanker, an overhead electric wire fell on to the vehicle making it burst into flames.
“We arrived at the spot and asked villagers to move away from the tanker. Some left and some remained there. Suddenly an electric wire fell on the tanker and it caught fire,” said the officer in charge of Kamargaon police station.