Around 75 people were feared dead when an overcrowded boat ferrying around 100 passengers capsized in the Ganga River in eastern Uttar Pradesh on Monday morning.
The passengers, most of them residents of five villages in UP’s Ballia district (350 km from Lucknow), were crossing the river to go to Bihar to participate in a tonsuring ceremony for infants.
Rescue work was reportedly hampered by lack of equipment — even though boat mishaps are not uncommon in rivers in the region.
Till late evening, 55 bodies had been recovered while more than 20 passengers were missing. Around 25 people either swam to safety or were rescued by boatmen.
The police and divers of the Provincial Armed Constabulary searched for bodies through the day, even deploying huge fishing nets after 4 pm.
At least 10 people admitted to the Ballia District Hospital were said to be in a serious condition.
“The reason for the tragic incident is being investigated,” said Divisional Commissioner Madhusudan Raizada. “It seems the boat was overcrowded.”
The boatman was also missing, he added.
Chief Minister Mayawati announced financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh each to the families of those who died.
In 2005, around 56 labourers on an overcrowded boat drowned when their boat capsized in a river in Ballia, but even five years after that tragedy no mechanism has been put in place to deal with such accidents.
(With PTI inputs)