Over 40 people, mostly women and children, were feared drowned when a country boat ferrying over 75 persons capsized in the swollen Ganga near Damrahi Ghat in Patna City sub-division on Thursday. Around 17 people either swam to safety or were saved by locals while the rest couldn’t be traced till last reports came in. Vaishali District Magistrate Lalan Singh and his Patna counterpart, B. Rajendra, were monitoring the rescue operation.
The mishap occurred around 9.30 a.m. when the boat carrying mostly casual labourers and one buffalo was on its way to Jaffarabad in Vaishali district. Prima facie, overloading seemed to have caused the tragedy. The boat had the capacity of 20-25 persons.
Eyewitnesses said out of the 75 persons on board, 15 to 20 were women and an equal number were children. Vaishali DM said professional divers had been pressed into service to trace the missing persons. Naresh Rai and Bholu Das, who swam to safety, told HT that when the boat reached midstream, water rushed in.
Raja Rai of Jaffarbad, one of the survivors, had another version. “As soon as the motorised boat reached midstream, the buffalo became restless. This caused imbalance and the boat sank.”
The officer in-charge (OC) of Raghopur police station, Anjani Kumar, agreed that ferrying the buffalo proved deadly for the passengers. Country boats are the only means of quick transportation in this part of Bihar.
Meanwhile, Vaishali SP Anupama S. Nirlekar said the Raghopur OC had been asked to check the condition of boats plying in the river. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar spoke to the Patna DM before leaving for the site.
The CM also announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh to the families of the dead and free treatment to the injured.