Death toll in Godavari boat tragedy put at 22

Rescue teams carry out operations after an open motor boat carrying 40 people capsized in Godavari river in East Godavari district on Wednesday.PTI

Almost 24 hours after a private double-decker boat ferrying around 44 people capsized in the river Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, the death toll was finally put at 22, including two children by officials.

Fifteen bodies were brought to the shore on Wednesday after pulling the ill-fated boat which was found stuck in sand 60 feet deep down the river.  Indian Navy, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), state disaster and state irrigation officials worked round-the-clock to locate the boat and find missing passengers.

"Forty-four people, including 27 men and 17 women, were travelling in the boat. Of them, 22 passengers swam to safety. While 15 bodies have been recovered so far, bodies of another seven passengers, including three persons whose identity is not known, are yet to be recovered,” Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who supervised the rescue operations at the accident spot on Wednesday, said.

Naidu announced Rs 10 lakh ex gratia to each family of the deceased, besides an immediate financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh for performing last rites and other needs.

Attributing the disaster as man-made, he said that the greedy boat operator loaded cement bags making it unstable in inclement weather. “Authorities had sent alerts four hours before the accident asking operators not to venture into the river. However, the operator even ignored the pleas of the passengers,” Naidu said.

In the morning, Navy helicopter from the Eastern Naval Command fitted with sonar equipment located the ill-fated boat at around 60 feet under the water stuck in the sand. The NDRF personnel and Navy divers managed to reach the spot and brought the boat to shore with the help of heavy cranes at around 3.00 pm.

Meanwhile, YSR Congress president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy has said that the Naidu government should own up responsibility for the deaths as it has been allowing unlicensed steamboats to ferry passengers despite public outcry. “The government’s indifference has led to three boat mishaps in six months,” he said.

The accident occurred around 5.30 pm on Tuesday when the boat from Kondamodalu to Rajahmundry carrying a marriage party along with others sank, hit by gale winds. The boat was supposed to reach its destination within an hour.

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