More than 10 people are feared drowned after a launch capsized in Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district on Tuesday evening.
The launch carrying at least 40 passengers — several from tribal communities — who were returning from a weekly market at Polavaram village when the launch was caught in strong currents and capsized between Devipatnam and Varapalli along the river in East Godavari district, sources said.
While 20 people managed to swim ashore, at least 10 were reported as missing till late evening, East Godavari District Collector Kartikeya Mishra said.
Divers from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), besides teams from Andhra Pradesh Fire and Emergency Services, irrigation and revenue departments have been pressed in for rescue operations.
The accident comes just days after a launch, carrying 120 passengers, caught fire midway to the scenic Papi Hills on May 11. Passengers had a narrow escape as the boat was steered ashore within minutes.
Several tribals, mostly from the Kondareddi community, had taken the launch on Tuesday morning from Manchur hamlet near Polavaram to Varapalli weekly market and were on their way back around 4pm when it capsized, Rampachodavaram Police Station officials said, adding that apparently the launch was caught in the currents midstream and overturned.
“We are not sure what caused the launch to capsize. We are talking to the survivors to ascertain what happened. The river is very shallow now, so if the boat had a problem, it could have reached the bank within five minutes,” Additional SP Ajitha Vejendla told The Indian Express.
The private launch belongs to Lakshmi Narasimha Travels was not a part of the tourist boats that take tourists to Papi Hills.
“This was a medium-sized boat, ferrying passengers from one hamlet to other along the river. It is like water autorickshaw that carries passengers and goods at nominal rates,” a police officier from R Chodavaram Police Station said.
Port officer of Kakinada, who is in-charge of issuing fitness certificates to boats, told The Indian Express that the launch had not applied for licence renewal and inspection after its permit expired on April 30.