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Dozens still missing after sight-seeing boat capsized in Godavari killing 8

While 27 people were rescued by members of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and local villagers, eight bodies were recovered as of late Sunday evening, officials said. Rescue operations, however, were hampered due to heavy flow of water and darkness.

india Updated: Sep 16, 2019 08:49 IST
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
NDRF personnel rescue survivors from the swollen Godavari river in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh on Sunday afternoon.
NDRF personnel rescue survivors from the swollen Godavari river in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh on Sunday afternoon.(PTI PHOTO.)
         

At least eight people were killed and over two dozen were reported missing when a private sightseeing boat carrying 60 people capsized in the Godavari River near Devipatnam in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district on Sunday, rescue officials said.

While 27 people were rescued by members of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and local villagers, eight bodies were recovered as of late Sunday evening, officials said. Rescue operations, however, were hampered due to heavy flow of water and darkness.

The boat — Royal Vashishta — was operating without a licence and had around 60 people on board, according to a government statement. It was ferrying passengers from Gandi Pochamma temple near Rajahmundry to Papikondalu hill range, a popular tourist spot.

Rescued passengers were shifted to a government hospital at Rampachodavaram, superintendent of police (East Godavari), Adnan Nayeem Asmi, said.

State home minister Mekathoti Sucharita said tour boats had been barred from operating on the route following the recent flooding of the river and it was not clear how the boat managed to venture out with tourists. “The Godavari has been in spate due to fresh floods for the last one week… Stern action will be taken against the culprits,” Sucharita said.

As of Sunday night, state officials did not provide information about any case being registered over the matter.

State tourism minister Muthamsetty Srinivasa Rao said the capsized boat did not have a licence from the tourism department.

The boat capsized around 1.20pm, minutes after the crew served lunch to the passengers on board, according to Gorre Prabhakar from Kadipikonda village of Warangal, one of the rescued tourists.

“The boat suddenly tilted towards right side in the river and we screamed for help. We were all wearing life jackets and some of us jumped into the water, while others climbed on top of the boat. Luckily, there was a village (Thutukunta) nearby and the locals rushed towards us in their boats and rescued some of us. In the meantime, the boat overturned completely,” he said.

The boat’s owner, Kodigudla Venkata Ramana, of Punnami Travels, told local media that the boat had a capacity of 90 passengers and was carrying sufficient number of life jackets. “The spot at Kachuluru where the mishap occurred is very dangerous with deep whirlpools. The drivers should have been careful in steering the boat. I don’t know what exactly happened,” Ramana said.

The state disaster management authority rushed two teams of NDRF each with 30 members, besides another team of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) to the spot to carry out rescue operations.

Two boats from the Andhra Pradesh tourism department were sent to the spot, while a Navy helicopter was also pressed into service.

“A deep-divers’ team of Indian Navy and one ONGC chopper were pressed into service for search operations. A specialised team of deep divers with ‘Side Scan Sonar’ equipment from Uttarakhand would also be coming to retrieve the other dead bodies,” a government statement said.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy said he is reviewing the situation. He announced ₹10 lakh as ex gratia for the victims’ relatives and also ordered cancellation of licences of all boats operating in the river.

According to an official release from the chief minister’s office, the bodies of the eight deceased passengers were shifted to Rajahmundry hospital for post-mortem.

In a tweet on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “extremely pained” by the incident. “Extremely pained by the capsizing of a boat in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. Rescue operations are currently underway at the site of the tragedy,” he tweeted.

Home minister Amit Shah also expressed grief over the “unfortunate” incident. “The loss of lives due to capsizing of a boat in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh is very unfortunate. I am deeply pained. My thoughts are with families of those who have lost their loved ones. May God give the bereaved families strength to withstand this tragic loss,” Shah said in a tweet.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that he hoped that those missing were safe. “I’m sorry to hear about the boat accident in the Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh. My deepest condolences to the families of those who have perished in this tragedy. I pray that all those reported missing will soon be accounted for and that they are safe,” he said on Twitter.

Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao announced an ex gratia of ₹5 lakh to each of kin of victims from the state. At least 36 passengers on the boat were from Telangana, according to initial reports.

Telugu Desam Party president and former AP chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and Jana Sena Party chief Pawan Kalyan also expressed shock over the tragedy.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Sep 15, 2019 15:01 IST

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