At least eight people drowned and several others were reported missing after a tourist boat capsized in Godavari River in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh on Sunday, officials said.
The boat was ferrying at least 50-60 people from the Gandipochamma temple to the Papikondalu hills when the mishap took place, said officials.
According to state Tourism Minister M Srinivasa Rao, the boat was operated by a private agency based in Rajahmundry. “We are trying to find out how this private boat operated today, since Godavari is in spate. The state tourism department has stopped operating boats several days back due to the high water level. We have to investigate why this private boat was allowed to operate. We have deputed NDRF teams and sent several boats with swimmers to help in the rescue work,” Rao said.
Officials said at least eight bodies were recovered by local fishermen and 24 people were rescued. East Godavari District Collector M Muralidhar Reddy said that apart from two NDRF teams comprising 30 personnel each, a helicopter of Navy was also involved in the rescue operation. Several boats of private agencies were requistioned to rush rescue personnel to the site of mishap.
This is the third such incident in this section of the Godavari in the last two years. Officials said that till September 13, 5.5 lakh cusecs of additional water flowed into the river.
Rao said the Kakinada Port Authority is in charge of regulating permits and licences to private agencies to operate tourist boats. “There are very strict rules and guidelines for operating tourist boats. I think this boat did not have a permit but still took tourists. The matter is under investigation and we will initiate action. As of now, we have again issued an order to suspend movement of tourist boats in Godavari,” Rao said.
Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy announced an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh to the kin of each of the deceased.
Among those missing are at least nine people from Warangal in Telangana. A group of 14 people from Warangal and Kazipet had gone to Rajahmundry and boarded the private boat for sightseeing. While five of them have been accounted for, nine are reported missing.