The death toll in the boat capsize incident, which took place in Krishna River at Ibrahimpatnam near Vijayawada on Sunday evening, has risen to 21. A woman, undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Amravati, died on Monday, news agency PTI quoted Krisha District Collector B Lakshmi Kantam as saying.
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had said in a statement in the Legislative Assembly that the deceased included nine women and a teenaged boy, while observing that the tragedy took place due to the “greed” of the private operator.
While 16 bodies were fished out of the river last night, four more were retrieved this morning. Another four persons, including two crew of the boat, were reported missing, the chief minister said, expressing his “deep regret and pain” over the mishap.
Naidu said a two-member committee comprising an IAS and an IPS officer would thoroughly probe the incident and suggest safety and precautionary measures to prevent such tragedies in the future.
“It is due to the greed of the private operator that this tragedy occurred. They did not have any permission (to operate the ferry service)…the driver was not experienced and had no knowledge of the (river) route. They behaved so irresponsibly and caused the mishap,” Naidu said.
The chief minister said that 17 passengers, who were rescued in the mishap, were sent home after treatment while four more were undergoing treatment in a hospital.
Officials are still unsure as to how many people were on board when the boat capsized after hitting a sand bar just meters away from the jetty, said Krishna District Collector B Lakshmikantam. Meanwhile, the operator of the boat has also been arrested.
The boat, which overturned in 10 feet of water, has been salvaged and officials said if anyone is missing, they may have been washed away in the river. After salvaging the boat, Andhra Pradesh Fire and Emergency Services personnel found that there were no life jackets in the boat.
“This boat operator was not given permission to operate a passenger boat. The agency had applied for permission to operate small speed boats and water scooters but not a passenger boat. A criminal case has been registered against the owner,’’ Tourism Minister Akhila Priya Reddy said on Monday.
The group had come for a picnic to Vijayawada yesterday morning from Ongole, 150 kms away. After visiting various temples and other sightseeing they went to Ibrahimpatnam to catch a boat for river cruise at 4 pm.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also expressed grief at the incident. “Capsizing of a boat in the Krishna River is anguishing. My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives in this tragedy. Andhra Pradesh Government and NDRF have been working on rescue operations,” Modi tweeted.
NDRF deputy commandant Santosh Kumar said rescue operations had been continuing since Sunday night and four teams were deployed. Divers are also making efforts to trace missing people, he said.