It is now certain that four people have lost lives in the yesterday’s boat tragedy at Brahmaputra, not 20 or more as initially feared.
24 hours after the incident took, place it is now confirmed that two persons Kamal Das and Rubul Ali are missing, while two girls Ankita Barua and Dimpy Das died while 22 others swam to safety.
A massive search operation have been mounted early this morning in river Brahmaputra jointly by SDRF, NDRF and Indian Army using even helicopter to search for any survivors or casualties of those missing in the boat tragedy .
The biggest problem is that nobody is sure how many were there in the boat as the figure s varies between 25 to 42. Already 22 have been rescued while two dies and their bodies have been recovered. It was suspected that boat had more people.
Meanwhile in a fire fighting measures, the state government have banned playing of all private boats across the river, pressed into the services of three more ferries in the zone and bringing in a new law for the plying of the private boats in the river Brahmaputra, this was announced last night by Assam transport Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary.
The deceased have been identified as Ankita Baruah and Dimpy Das, both students of Cotton University.
Around 36 persons were on board, Commissioner of Guwahati Police, PC Saloi said.
The ill-fated boat – SB Brahmaputra bearing registration number 1149, which originated from Guwahati, met with the accident around two hundred metres before it could reach the shore near Aswaklanta temple in North Guwahati at around 1.30 pm.
The boat, according to the eyewitnesses, collided with a concrete structure of the JICA water project after the engine of the boat stopped functioning. JICA is constructing a pier at the site for its water supply project’s intake point.
Questions are being raised about the fitness of the boats operating under the Inland Water Transport (IWT) with many operators alleging that the authorities paid no heed to the safety features of the boats plying from Guwahati to North Guwahati despite several appeals.
It has also been alleged that there is no mechanism in place to regulate the passengers’ load on boats and ferries, which is why most of the vessels carry excess number of passengers and two-wheelers.
“As there is a tendency to travel without ticket during the peak hours, it would be even more difficult to ascertain the actual number of persons on board,” official sources stated.
The operators’ version however does not explain why they have been continuing with the practice of carrying more passengers than permissible limits. “It’s evident that the operators are flouting the norms to maximize their profits,” a passenger said.
IWT sources while conceding the lapses divulged that the 16-metre-long vessel had a capacity to carry three tonne load or 15 passengers. But, the operator issued tickets to 24 passengers. Three IWT staff were also on board, besides seven motorbikes, two bicycles and unspecified number of passengers travelling without tickets.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has ordered an inquiry into the incident. Sonowal directed Additional Chief Secretary Jishnu Baruah to enquire into the causes and circumstances leading to the incident and file the report within a shortest possible time.
Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup, Kamal Kumar Baishya told The Assam Tribune that the search and rescue operation was on and efforts have also been initiated to find out if any of the passengers had left for home without notifying.
NDRF and the SDRF personnel were immediately pressed into the rescue operation, besides private boats and those owned by IWT.
A spokesperson of the NDRF told this reporter that three teams of deep divers along with nine boats have been rushed to the spot immediately after the incident took place.