Godavari mishap: Chopper, NDRF teams fish for missing passengers

A chopper and a large posse of Indian Navy, NDRF, SDRF and State irrigation officials are searching the spot where at least 35 people are feared to have met their watery grave along with the boat they were travelling in. The accident happened in Godavari river, near Mantoor, in Devipatnam block in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.

Rescue operations that started soon after the accident on Tuesday evening have been officially turned into a salvage operation with huge cranes kept ready to pull out the boat.

The boat, carrying over 50 passengers, capsized in Godavari River on Tuesday due to inclement weather. Officials said at least 15 passengers, including two women, have swum back to the shores. The accident occurred around 5.30 pm 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.

On Wednesday morning, Navy helicopter from the Eastern Naval Command fitted with a sonar equipment located the ill-fated boat at around 40 feet under the water stuck in the sand. Even as the Navy divers and NDRF specialists could locate the spot, lifting the boat from that depth seems to be an impossible task.

“It will be very difficult to give you an exact number of the people trapped in the lower cabin of the boat. So far 15 people were either rescued or swam back to safety. The number of total passengers could be more than 35, we are preparing a list,” said Karthikeya Mishra, East Godavari District Collector, overseeing the operations.

Devipatnam police say that boat operator might have issued tickets exceeding the capacity leading to confusion over the actual number of victims in the accident. Some survivors alleged that the operator loaded several cement bags in the lower cabin and closed the windows to save them from rain, trapping all the passengers inside at the time the boat turned turtle.

“When the winds become severe we had urged the boat operator not to go further and to take a U-turn, he didn’t listen and continued causing the accident,” one of the female survivors said. Meanwhile, the district administration has arranged for food and medical aid for the kin of the missing passengers on the banks of the river near the accident site.

District officials say that Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu, who has been monitoring the operations from Amaravati, might be visiting the accident site to console the kin of the missing people.

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