Divers of the Indian Navy and teams of the NDRF and fire and emergency services have pulled out 14 bodies from the motor launch which capsized in Godavari river on Tuesday evening. The number of missing persons is yet to be confirmed.
The launch, found at a depth of 60 feet barely 100 metres from the shore near a tribal hamlet named Varapalli, was salvaged with the help of a crane and boats.
Officials at Devipatnam police station said bodies of eight women, four children and two men were recovered from the cabin of the vessel, which sank during a squall on Tuesday evening. At least 40 people, Kondareddy tribals from hamlets along the river, were on board the launch headed for Varapalli.
“The bodies were found in the cabin where they had taken shelter from the rain and high speed winds when the storm hit on Tuesday afternoon. They had locked the windows and door to escape the rain and had no chance to come out when the boat tilted and capsized suddenly. Divers broke open the windows and a door to bring out the bodies,’’ an official said.
Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu visited the spot to oversee rescue efforts. He said several factors were behind the accident. “The launch owner who was onboard picked up some cement bags along the way which increased the weight drastically. We are verifying how many bags were loaded on the boat… Survivors have said that despite requesting the owner and driver to make it to the shore and anchor at a safe location, they (driver and owner) disregarded it…Those who were on the outer deck escaped by jumping. The launch owner and driver did nothing to help; they saved their own lives.
“I have announced ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh, a house under the Relief and Rehabilitation scheme for the Polavaram project, and government jobs if any of the families lost an earning member. We will ensure that the children in the affected families are enrolled in residential schools and their education is taken care of,’’ Naidu said.
At least 20 people on board the launch swam ashore, officials said. Among the survivors was 14-year-old Sirisha who jumped out of the launch and hung on to a packed refrigerator, which someone had loaded on the vessel. “The packing had not been opened so there was a lot of thermocol due to which it floated and the girl hung on to it and waded towards the shore. She was rescued by locals,” an official said.
Divers failed in trying to locate the boat on Tuesday night due to the bad weather and darkness. The driver and boat owner have surrendered.