Hyderabad, Sept. 15, 2019: Twelve people were killed and another 36 went missing when a private tourist boat with 72 on board overturned in the swirling waters of the Godavari river at Kachuluru village of Devipatnam block in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district on Sept. 15 afternoon.
East Godavari Superintendent of Police, Adnan Nayeem Asmi said while 24 tourists were rescued by members of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and local villagers, as many as 12 bodies were recovered by evening, when rescue operations were hampered since it was getting dark.
The rescued passengers were shifted to the government hospital at Rampachodavaram for treatment.
According to officials, the boat, Royal Vashishta, had in all 63 people on board, besides nine crew members including two drivers – S Nukaraju and Tamaraju, who were still missing. Thirty six passengers were from Telangana, including 22 from Hyderabad and 14 from Warangal.
The boat was ferrying passengers from Gandi Pochamma temple near Rajahmundry to the picturesque Papikondalu hill range, a popular tourist spot.
According to Gorre Prabhakar from Kadipikonda village of Warangal who was rescued, the incident happened at around 1.20 pm, within minutes of the crew serving lunch to the passengers on board.
“The boat suddenly tilted towards the right side in the river and we panicked and shouted for help. We were all wearing safety life jackets and some of us jumped into the waters, while some others climbed on top of the boat to save ourselves. Luckily, there was a village Thutukunta nearby on the shore and the locals rushed towards us in their boats and rescued some of us. In the meantime, the boat overturned completely and sank into the waters,” he said.
Kodigudla Venkata Ramana of Punnami Travels, the owner of the boat, told reporters that the boat had a capacity of 90 passengers and had sufficient number of life jackets. “The spot at Kachuluru where the accident occurred is very dangerous with deep whirlpools. The drivers should have been careful in steering the boat. I don’t know what exactly happened,” he said.
Within minutes of receiving information, the state disaster management authority swung into action and rushed two teams of NDRF, each with 30 members, besides another team of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) to the spot to carry out rescue operations.
Two boats of the AP Tourism Department have been sent to the spot, while a Navy helicopter was also pressed into service to carry the NDRF teams and also to find the exact location of the boat. However, the rescue operations were hampered due to full flow of the river.
“The Godavari has been in spate due to fresh floods for the last one week. Even on Sunday, the river was receiving inflow of five lakh cusecs,” state home minister Mekathoti Sucharita said.
Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy is reviewing the situation. He has directed local ministers and MLAs to supervise rescue operations. He announced Rs 10 lakh as ex gratia for the kin of the victims.
The chief minister has ordered cancellation of licences of all boats being operated in the river. He has asked officials to conduct a thorough inspection of all the boats which ply in the river.
Tourism Minister Muthamsetty Srinivasa Rao said the capsized boat didn’t have a licence of the Tourism Department, but had permission from Kakinada Port authorities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his concern, “Extremely pained by the capsizing of a boat in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. Rescue operations are currently underway at the site of the tragedy.”
Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao, expressed shock over the boat tragedy, in which nearly 36 passengers were from Telangana. He announced an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh for the kin of the boat tragedy victims from the state. He directed state tourism minister Puvvada Ajay to visit the spot and oversee the rescue operations.
Telugu Desam Party president and former AP chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and Jana Sena Party chief Pawan Kalyan have expressed shock over the boat tragedy. The leaders have asked their party workers to take part in rescue operations.