Kashmir boat capsize tragedy: Day on, no trace of missing trio as search operation continues - Hindustan Times
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Kashmir boat capsize tragedy: Day on, no trace of missing trio as search operation continues

ByAshiq Hussain, Srinagar
Apr 18, 2024 06:51 AM IST

Six people, including two children and their mother, were killed and three went missing as a boat carrying students to school capsized on the Jhelum in Gandbal

The search to find three persons who went missing after a boat was capsized in Jhelum river in Srinagar continued on Wednesday.

Rescuers searching for missing persons in Jhelum river near Gandbal, Kashmir. (PTI)
Rescuers searching for missing persons in Jhelum river near Gandbal, Kashmir. (PTI)

Six people, including two children and their mother, were killed and three went missing as a boat carrying the students to school on Tuesday morning capsized on the Jhelum in Gandbal. All the children on the board studied in the Kendriya Vidyalaya in Sonwar across the river. The boat overturned around 8 am after hitting an iron pole in the middle of the river as the wooden boat headed east from Gandabal towards Batwara in the Jammu & Kashmir capital, with 15 passengers on board.

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Officials said that rescue teams of SDRF, NDRF and Marcos searched the turbid water of the river Jhelum 4-5 km downstream from Gandbal to Raj Bagh while divers went under water to look for any signs of the three missing persons. All the police stations along river Jhelum have been alerted to look for any floating bodies.

Kashmir inspector general of police Vidhi Kumar Birdi said that the rescue operation continued in the night and it was resumed in the morning.

“We are searching the river but so far we couldn’t find anything. The search operation is still going on,” Birdi said.

The teams are looking for Farhan Waseem Parray, 7, Showkat Ahmad Sheikh, 40 and his son Haziq Showkat, 9.

Read Here: Blind mother, widower father mourn losses in Gandbal boat capsize tragedy

Their families along with hundreds of people lined the banks of river Jhelum waiting for any trace of their loved ones. “He has two daughters. He is a mason. We have nobody except him,” said Showkat Ahmad’s distraught mother, Fatima.

“My husband is also dead. My son had constructed this small house after taking a loan. How will I repay the loan? Who will take care of his daughters,” the septuagenarian said.

Birdi said that the teams and divers were looking for specific places where they think a dead body can be found owing to the fast flowing water currents.

“These specialised divers have their own understanding of the water and its currents. They are searching areas where there is a high probability of finding anything. They are not only diving but looking at places where the momentum of water breaks and there is more probability of finding a body,” he said.

The officials are also expecting that the bodies might come up. “We have experienced that a body comes to the surface after some time owing to rigor-mortis or gulping of air. We are also looking for that. We have already alerted all the police stations along river Jhelum to look out for any (floating bodies),” he said.

Locals and survivors of Gandbal pointed out that the two banks were just 500m apart, but that they were forced to make the treacherous trip across in the boats because the nearest bridge is 2 km away. They also added that a footbridge, along the accident spot, has been under construction for nearly a decade.

The people and political leaders have come down heavily on the administration for taking so long to complete the work on the footbridge.

Read Here: Kashmir leaders slam delay in construction of bridge after boat capsizes in Gandbal

“The whole valley is in mourning. The officers and leaders come at the time of elections and then they never show their face. They never care about the needs of the people,” said a group of morning women at Gandbal.

Mirwaiz seeks answers from govt

Hurriyat leader and chief priest of Kashmir’s grand mosque Jamia Masjid Mirwaiz Umar Farooq sought answers from the lieutenant governor led administration over non-completion of the footbridge at Gandbal and other places along the river.

“While we urge for patience, at the same time we have to think whether this incident could have been averted. Why did it happen? There is an issue of connectivity as there is no bridge. Every day they have to use this boat and then there are no security measures in such transportation. There are no life jackets or life guards,” Mirwaiz told media.

“Not only this area but other areas near the place also have such problems and God forbid what if such an incident happens again. The government should take responsibility for why such an incident happened. They should focus on connectivity and safety of the citizens,” he said.

Another hamlet along river Jhelum protests for footbridge

Some 3-km away from the Gandbal hamlet, scores of people of Karnabal-Somerbugh hamlet on the bank of river Jhelum protested on road at Pantha Chowk demanding the completion of the footbridge.

They said that a footbridge connecting Karnabal, Somerbugh to Pantha Chowk across the river was under construction for the past 12 years. The protesters, including women, blocked the old highway for a few hours causing traffic jams. They were saying that the protest was ‘a mourning’.

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