In one of the worst boat tragedies in Assam, at least 103 people, including women and children, are feared to have drowned and over 100 went missing when an overloaded boat carrying about 250-300 passengers capsized in the Brahmaputra river during a storm, in Dhubri district of western Assam on Monday evening. Rescue operations were hampered due to bad weather and nightfall.
National Disaster Relief Force head Alok Jha said the bodies of 103 victims, including women and children, were recovered by the BSF and the NDRF personnel near Jaleswar.
“We do not have the exact number of passengers on board. But eyewitnesses and some survivors claimed that there were about 300 people on it, which included some women and children too. The boat had left one of the several ghats in Dhubri town on the north bank and was on its way to Hatsingimari on the south bank,” Dhubri SP P K Saloi told The Indian Express.
Saloi said the accident occurred at around 5 pm when the overloaded motor-fitted boat capsized after it was caught in the storm. Rescue operations are on, with police and BSF personnel taking the help of local people, he said.
Deputy Commissioner Kumud Chandra Kalita said about 25 people managed to swim to safety. The bodies of the victims have been taken to the Dhubri civil hospital.
The Army, BSF, NDRF and police have launched a massive rescue operation.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi directed the Chief Secretary and Principal Secretary (disaster management) to expedite rescue operations. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also called up Gogoi to express his grief at the disaster.
It was only last week that four women were killed in another boat mishap on the Brahmaputra in Dhubri district. Overloading of passengers and goods in boats on the Brahmaputra has remained a major problem with the authorities having very little control over the water transport system that is largely operated by private parties in Assam.