The death toll in the Hirakud reservoir boat tragedy rose to 29 on Monday as scuba divers recovered 13 more bodies in Sambalpur district of Orissa. Three people are still missing.
“A helicopter with a telescopic binocular from Bhubaneswar was also used to help locate the bodies,” special relief commissioner P K Mohapatra said. The scuba divers also managed to locate the sunken boat.
Mohapatra said the motorised boat was ferrying members of Lions’ Club and their relatives to an island in Hirakud reservoir for a picnic at 10 am on Sunday. After the picnic, about 114 members of the club boarded the boat at Tilia Ghat in Jharsuguda district with 30 people from nearby villages. Some people also had their motor bikes with them.
Halfway to the shore, the boat’s motor stopped after which it lost balance and water began filling up in it. A nearby boat rushed to its aid, but the boat had already filled up with water by the time it reached, he said.
As the rescue boat reached, passengers tried to get into it all at once, resulting in the boat capsizing. About five fire brigade teams rescued around 100 persons soon after. Two senior ministers in the Naveen Patnaik Cabinet — Prasanna Acharya and Surya Narayan Patro — supervised rescue operations at the site.
The Orissa government announced Rs 1.5 lakh ex-gratia for family members of the victims and free treatment for survivors. Sambalpur’s revenue divisional commissioner has ordered an inquiry.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited the site on Monday, spent some time at Jamadarpali Ghat on the ba-nk of Mahanadi river and met families who lost relatives in the incident. He also met Sambalpur DC Balwant Singh and other senior officials.