One month on, no trace of 13 passengers missing in Godavari boat tragedy

It has been exactly a month since a boat with 77 passengers on board capsized in the swirling waters of Godavari river at Katchuluru of Devipatnam block in Andhra Pradesh’s Godavari district and the bodies of 13 passengers are yet to be traced.

While the teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and Navy divers, besides local fishermen could rescue 26 passengers within hours of the tragic mishap on September 15, bodies of 38 passengers were retrieved over a period of next one week.

Though there was a confusion initially over the total number of passengers on board of the ill-fated boat, subsequent investigations by the district police authorities revealed that there were 77 passengers who were on their way to picturesque tourist spot Papikondalu, about 60 km from Rajahmundry.

“After compiling the data from the relatives of the passengers, it was concluded that bodies of 13 passengers are yet to be recovered,” joint director of the information and public relations department in Kakinada K Francis said.

Though some bodies were found floating in Godavari in the subsequent days, they were found to be of different persons and not related to the accident. “We suspect that the remaining 13 bodies might have been trapped in the air-conditioned compartment of the boat that is believed to be buried in the sand at a depth of more than 100 metres in the water,” the official said.

The authorities made all efforts to retrieve the boat, but since the place where it is located was found to be the most dangerous spot with whirlpools. Navy divers and also experts from Uttarakhand made an attempt to reach the boat but they could go only up to 50 metres. Similarly, marine experts from Mumbai also made a futile attempt to retrieve the boat.

Subsequently, the state government entrusted the contract of retrieving the boat to Balaji Marine Company headed by marine expert Dharmadi Satyam from Kakinada. “He tried for a couple of days using iron ropes and heavy cranes. But due to heavy floods to the river, he did not succeed,” another official in the Kakinada Collectorate said.

On Monday, Satyam resumed operations using anchors and heavy ropes. “There is no flood in the river now and weather is clear. We are hopeful of retrieving the bodies in a couple of days,” Satyam said.

Meanwhile, the district authorities paid ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh and insurance amount to the kin of each of 38 passengers whose bodies were recovered. However, no compensation was paid to the families of those 13 missing persons whose bodies are yet to be traced.

“Unless the bodies are recovered and the post mortem is done, there is no way the government can pay ex gratia to their kin. We are waiting for the boat to be retrieved. If no bodies are found in the boat, the police will issue “not-traced” certificate and the government will have to issue a separate order for payment of ex gratia and other benefits to them,” the official quoted above said.

First Published: Oct 16, 2019 01:31 IST

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