Andhra Pradesh: Six including five students feared drown in Godavari

By Express News Service

RAJAMAHENDRAVARAM: Five girls and a woman were feared drowned after a country boat in which they were travelling along with 26 others capsized in the river Godavari near Pasuvulalanka in I Polavaram mandal, East Godavari district on Saturday evening.

The boat hit the concrete pillar of an under-construction bridge in the river and capsized, eye-witnesses and survivors said. Local villagers rescued several passengers while several others managed to swim to safety. Of the 26 survivors, two have been hospitalised and their condition is said to be stable.

State Disaster Management Authority (SDRF) informed late in the evening that the boat was ferrying about 32 passengers from Pasuvulalanka to Saladivaripalemlanka when it collided with the pillar.

It is learnt that four motorcycles were also being carried in the boat. This is the third such incident in the past three months in East Godavari district.

Most of the passengers were school-going students, and of the six missing victims, five are girls, all believed to be Class X students.

District collector Kartikeya Mishra told TNIE that the boat driver lost control amid the strong current and while adrift, the boat hit the pillar. "Seven to 10 passengers, it appears, jumped on to the pillar base area from one side which resulted in the boat overturning. The incident occurred around 4.15 pm. and 4.25 p.m," he added. Asked if the boat operator has a licence, he replied it had to be checked. Similarly, life jackets were not given to the passengers, he confirmed.

Official sources said the missing girls were all students at the Pasuvulalanka school and most of the passengers belong to Serilanka, K Gannavaram and Samarala mandals in the district. The students were returning after participating in the Vanam Manam programme (plantation drive) launched on Saturday by the State government across the State to promote green cover.

People in these parts use boats to cross the river which is dotted with several islets. In fact, the bridge has been under-construction for the last three years to connect Pasuvulalanka to Saladivaripalemlanka but as with several other such works, it has been stalled. There are seven islets in the Saladivaripalem panchayat and people shuttle between them every day on country boats.

Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who expressed grief over the mishap, asked officials concerned to take all steps to rescue the missing. Two NDRF teams each consisting of 35 personnel were deputed from Kakinada and Visakhapatnam. Navy divers from Visakhapatnam too have been rushed to the spot. A fire service team of 30 members is also involved in the rescue operations. The SDRF 3rd Battalion from Kakinada consisting of 22 members has also reached the spot. Rescue operation was continuing when reports last came in.

Home Minister N China Rajappa, collector Kartikeya Mishra and SP Vishal Gunni are monitoring the rescue operations.

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