Tinsukia: Overnight search and rescue operations established contacts with 84 persons, who were travelling on the ill-fated boat that capsized in the Brahmaputra river in Assam, but two persons are still missing, officials said on Thursday morning.
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma will visit Nimati Ghat in Assam’s Jorhat on Thursday, a day after head-on-collision between two ferries that left one person dead and at least two still missing.
The latest statement issued by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) revises earlier figures on the number of people who were aboard the two boats when the accident happened at about 4 pm on Wednesday. On Thursday, the ASDMA said there were 90 people onboard, of which 87 have been rescued so far.
“Out of 90 persons, 87 are safe. One person has died and two are missing,” Deputy commissioner of Majuli, Bikram Koiri told EastMojo.
Two ferry boats collided at Nimati Ghat on Wednesday with passengers onboard. The accident occurred when the private ferry, Ma Kamala, which was heading towards Majuli from Nimati Ghat collided with the ‘MB Tipkai’ ferry (operated by state’s Inland Water Transport department) coming from the riverine island. The private ferry capsized and sank.
According to latest inputs, Army and Air Force units stationed in Jorhat district joined the rescue efforts at 6.00 am on Thursday, following a brief break of three hours. At least 42 people were rescued during the night long search and rescue operations by the NDRF and SDRF teams.
“Multiple teams of 12 NDRF and 1st NDRF succeeded in establishing a tower light near the submerged boat, making it possible to approach the boat with cutting equipment. The sunken boat was tracked about 2 km downstream from the spot of the accident, and cut open to trace out victims in the night itself,” an NDRF official told EastMojo.
The wreckage of the boat was cut open from the base by NDRF and SDRF divers, but no body was found inside it, Jorhat Deputy Commissioner Ashok Barman said.
“So far, one person is confirmed dead and two persons are missing. We could do contact tracing of 84 persons to different villages in Jorhat and Majuli districts. This adds up to the presence of 87 passengers on the boat,” he added.
Jorhat’s Superintendent of Police Ankur Jain said the two missing persons hail from Jorhat and Lakhimpur districts, and search operation is still going on with divers from the NDRF and SDRF with backup of the Army.
“The divers on Thursday morning also went inside the boat, but could not find any body. Army divers will also search the area. Air Force will carry out an aerial survey downstream to locate the missing persons,” he said.
An ASDMA official said at least 7 persons were currently undergoing treatment at the Jorhat Medical College & Hospital.
“Hotel has been arranged for rescued persons requiring accommodation. The capsized boat has been cut open by NDRF and SDRF teams and no dead bodies have been found,” the official said.
Jorhat Medical College and Hospital’s Superintendent Purnima Barua said at least 11 passengers were initially admitted to the hospital, of whom one died and three were released.
“Seven persons are still undergoing treatment, but none of them are critical. More than physical injury, they are in mental trauma,” she said.
The deceased person has been identified as Parimita Das, who hailed from Guwahati and worked as a faculty at the Rangachahi College in Majuli. The missing persons have been identified as Jaan Baruah of Lakhimpur and Dr Bikramjit Baruah of Jorhat.
Meanwhile, three officials of the Inland Water Transport (IWT) department have been suspended while a magisterial-level enquiry has been set up to probe the incident.
The suspended officials include Bikramaditya Choudhury, in-charge executive engineer, IWT Dibrugarh division and IWT Jorhat sub-division in-charge assistant executive engineer Mukut Gogoi and junior engineer Ratul Tamuli.
“We have ordered a magisterial inquiry from our end to look into the various aspects related to the accident, detect loopholes and fix accountability,” the Majuli DC said.
Videos of the fateful accident show how men and women jumped from the boat to save themselves, without wearing any safety jackets – a minimum safety requirement to operate a ferry, pointing to serious safety lapses. It also points to an undetected absence of safety measures by the concerned state government departments.
It is a known fact that ferries plying from Nimati Ghat to Majuli often carried passengers beyond the permissible limits and the IWT department officials and district administration do not bother to act.
A similar accident in April 2012 had left at least 100 people dead after a ferry capsized in the mighty Brahmaputra in Assam’s Dhubri district.
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