Divers from Indian Navy from Visakhapatnam joined efforts by East Godavari district officials on Wednesday morning to trace several people who were missing after a motor launch capsized in river Godavari last evening.
Officials have been deputed to the tribal hamlets along the river to find out if anyone is missing. Several persons are reported missing after the launch capsized during high speed winds and rain Tuesday evening. The launch was carrying at least 40 tribals returning from a weekly market and capsized in between Devipatnam and Varapalli areas in East Godavari district.
At least 20 persons swam ashore. The tribals, all belonging to the kondareddi community, had taken the same launch from Manchur tribal hamlet near Polavaram to go to the Varapalli weekly fair market. Officials at Rampachodavaram Police Station said that the tribals were returning in the same launch which they went in the morning.
East Godavari district collector Kartikeya Misra said that they have located the launch. “It is about 100 metres away from the shore and at a depth of 50 feet. Survivors are saying that the boat got caught in high speed winds and heavy rain and when the driver tried to steer it towards the shore it tilted to one side suddenly and went down. They are saying that due to the wind and rain several women and children locked the door of the cabin and were stuck inside when the boat went down. There were at least five children in the boat according to the survivors. We are trying to salvage the boat,’’ Misra said.
Misra said survivors told him that when the launch got caught up in the storm, passengers requested the driver and boat owner, Khaja Moinuddin, who was also in the launch, to take it to the shore and anchor it safely. “It seems that the driver said there was no reason to worry and continued with the journey. Near Varapalli, the driver tried to turn the boat but tilted to one side due to the high speed winds and capsized immediately,’’ Misra said.
Officials said that among the survivors is a 14-year-old girl, Sirisha, who jumped out of the launch as it capsized and hung on to a brand new fridge which someone had purchased and had loaded it on the launch. “The packing had not been opened, so there was lot of thermocol due to which it floated and the girl hung on to it and waded towards the shore. She was rescued by the locals. She is in shock and undergoing treatment at Rajahmundry,’’ an official said.
The driver and the boat owner, who swam ashore, have surrendered before the police. As there is no road to the place where the mishap occurred, rescue teams had a tough time reaching the spot. While Navy divers were airlifted to the spot, NDRF, SDRF, Fire and other rescue teams reached by rubber boats. The EG district administration has temporarily halted all movement of motor launches in the area.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also took to Twitter to express anguish over the incident. “Anguished by the capsizing of a boat in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district. Condolences to the bereaved families. I pray for the safety of those missing,” he tweeted.
Anguished by the capsizing of a boat in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district. Condolences to the bereaved families. I pray for the safety of those missing.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 15, 2018