Nine people were feared drowned after an overloaded boat carrying 16 passengers capsized in the Beas river on Thursday morning.
The victims hailed from Munda Pind village in Tarn Taran district. They had boarded the boat to reach Gurdwara Dalla Sahib in Kapurthala district on the opposite bank. There were seven survivors, including the boatman, who managed to swim ashore.
The incident took place around 9am when the boat was carrying the third group of pilgrims from Munda Pind to the other side of the river.
The survivors said they first saw water entering the boat and then a crack developed in its lower part. Those on board tried to drain out the water, but they failed and the boat capsized.
A majority of the people feared drowned were in their twenties, besides a teenager and a man about 75 years of age.
Tragedy struck when the boat had covered just 200 metres of the 2km stretch. Villagers, along with officials of the district administration and the police, rushed to the spot.
Divers were put on the job, but no body had been found so far. Divers and boats from Jalandhar and other adjoining places were also pressed into service. The police said a net had been thrown into the river to prevent drowned bodies from entering the Ferozepur area.
Talking to HT, Jagroop Singh, a survivor, said, "There were 16 of us. We spotted water entering the boat. Soon, a crack appeared in the floor of the boat. The boat immediately capsized."
He added, "I don't know how to swim, yet I somehow survived. I feel it was God who saved me." The boat was overloaded and not in a good condition, he claimed.
Eyewitnesses Kulbir Kaur and Simerjit Kaur told HT, "The boat had already made two trips to the opposite bank. Since many people were waiting, it took 16 people in the third trip."
Tarn Taran Rajjit Singh senior superintendent of police (SSP) and Kapurthala SSP Inderbir Singh reached the spot and were there till late in the evening to supervise rescue operations.
Rajjit said, "Although the exact reason is yet to be ascertained, it seems that the tragedy happened because of too many people boarding it and later a crack emerging. Although it is in Kapurthala District but joint operation is on and divers were put on job immediately to find the drowned. However still there is no clue."
The unexpected rain also made it tough for the rescue job, as many police vehicles carrying its jawans and boats were stuck midway due to slippery route.
Diver Balbir Singh told that he along with his team had spent more than two hours in water but could not find anyone.
The following are feared drowned: Harpreet Singh (22), Bachan Singh (75), Wassan Singh (23), Jagroop Singh (22), Hardev Singh (26), Harpreet Singh (21), Hardev Singh (21), Monu (20) and Jasbir Singh (13).
Those who survived have been identified as Kala, Jagroop Singh, Daljit Singh, Hardev Singh, Rajinder Singh, Gurjant Singh and Navdeep Singh.