Boat disaster toll mounts to 24; seven still missing

Boat disaster toll mounts to 24; seven still missing

Thirteen more bodies were recovered today taking the toll in the boat capsize incident in Odisha's Sambalpur district to 24 even as efforts were on to trace at least seven more missing persons.

The bodies were found as scuba divers were engaged in the morning to trace the missing persons after the boat capsize in Sambalpur district yesterday, Special Relief Commissioner P K Mohapatra told PTI.

He said at least seven persons were still missing.

"The number of missing persons might vary with additional information being received from local people," Mohapatra said.

The scuba divers also located the sunken boat.

The state government has announced Rs 1.5 lakh ex-gratia for the family members of the dead and free treatment for the survivors.

An administrative inquiry by Sambalpur's revenue divisional commissioner has been ordered.

Recounting the sequence of events in the Assembly, Parliamentary Affairs minister Kalpataru Das said that around 114 family members of the Lion's Club, Sambalpur went on a picnic beside the Hirakud reservoir.

He said the picnickers while returning set sail in a large motorised boat from Tilla Ghat.In addition, around 30 people, some with motorcycles, from nearby villages also boarded the boat, Das said.

The boatmen asked some of the picknickers to disembark as the boat was overloaded, but this was ignored, the minister said.

Halfway through the return journey, the motor of the boat suddenly stopped creating panic among the passengers with the boat capsizing.

Another boat rushed to rescue the passengers with most of them jumping into the water.

As soon as the district administration received about the capsize, the collector, the superintendent of police, and the fire-brigade launched a rescue operation, Das said.

He said that about 80 persons were rescued by 6:00 pm yesterday. Those in a critical condition were admitted to the district headquarters hospital in Sambalpur, VSS Medical College Hospital in Burla and JMJ Hospital at Bareipali.

Those with minor injuries were discharged after first-aid.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who is on a visit to Delhi, asked revenue and disaster minister S N Patro and finance minister Prasanna Acharya to rush to the accident spot.

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