1 dead, 12 missing as boat capsizes in Bhagirathi

Burdwan: One person was drowned and at least 12 others were missing after an overcrowded boat capsized in river Bhagirathi, sparking violent protest in Nadia district during which several boats were torched and police fired tear gas and lobbed rubber bullets to quell the mob.

The boat, ferrying at least 55 people much above its capacity, overturned in water last night as the people were way back to Shantipur on the opposite bank from a fair at Kalna in Burdwan district, District Magistrate Nadia Vijay Bharti told PTI over phone today.

While many people swam ashore to safety, around 12 went missing.

The body of a 35-year-old woman passenger was recovered from the river bed near Shantipur, Bharti said.

On the identity of the body, Bharti said, “We have sent photos of the body to Kalna and Shantipur Police stations and we are trying to contact relatives of those whose kins are missing.”

The post-mortem of the body would be done once its identity was established, the Nadia DM said.

Asked whether the rescue operation would continue throughout the night, Bharti said that though partolling on the river would continue, deep diving was quite difficult during night hours.

Burdwan District Magistrate Saumitra Mohan said several teams, including rescuers from the Disaster Management Group, civil defence and private divers, besides two teams of National Disaster Response Force were pressed into service to find the missing.

“Over 150 rescue workers in multiple teams are employed in the search operation. Civic volunteers and private divers are also working,” the Burdwan DM said.

When asked about the alleged delay in rescue operations, Mohan said the water current, depth of the river and the muddy water was making the job of the divers “very difficult”.

“The river is very deep even at the jetty where the mishap happened. It’s around 70 feet deep there itself. It deepens further as you go inside. The water is muddy rendering the visibility poor and the river current made stronger by last night’s rain and thundershowers,” he said.

The DM said “overloading” was one of the suspected causes leading to the mishap.

“As per our initial reports, it appeared that the carrying capacity of the boat was around 45. But around 15-20 more people jumped onto the boat breaking the police cordon at the ghat… And the boat broke down the moment it started sailing and then capsized,” Mohan said. .