FOUR CHILDREN, in the age group of 4 to 12 years, and a senior citizen died after a boat carrying tribals capsized in Narmada river in Nandurbar on Tuesday afternoon. At least 37 others were rescued and rushed to Dhadgaon rural hospital, while search operations continued for two missing children.
The deceased have been identified as Bhupendra Bharat Pawara (4), Laxmi Bharat Pawara (4), Tulsi Ratilal Pawara (5), Geeta Pawara (12) and Manu Pawara (60) — all from from Telkhedi village in Dhadgaon block. “They all drowned.
They were declared dead in Dhadgaon rural hospital,” said District Health Officer Dr Nitin Bodke.
Local residents said that around 60 to 70 tribals from the village were visiting the river on Tuesday to offer prayers on the occasion of Makar Sankranti. The tribals hired a private boat from Bhusha village to travel about a kilometre into the river. The boat was allegedly ferrying passengers double its capacity when it capsized.
“They had hardly set sail, and 5 to 10 minutes later, the boat capsized,” said Additional District Collector Dilip Jagdale.
Those killed in the mishap included children who could not swim.
SP Sanjay Patil said search operations are underway for two missing children who are feared to have drowned. By Tuesday evening, State Disaster Relief Force was roped in to search for Monica Pawara (4) and Simran Pawara (4).
District officials said with poor access to equipment and gear, they remained unsure whether search operations could continue through the night.
Of the 37 others rushed to the hospital, 10 remain serious. “We have referred six of them to Nandurbar civil hospital,” said Dr Bodke. The rural hospital was filled to its capacity, forcing injured patients to take refuge on corridors and reception area, lying down on floormats. Dr Santosh Parmar, hospital superintendent, said: “Since we were short of beds, those who are stable have been shifted on the floor. The critical patients were immediately referred to a higher centre.”
The police said inquiry is underway to question the owner of the boat, local tribal Vasant Pawara, and check whether he had all required permits to ferry passengers. Each passenger had paid Rs 30 for the ride.
The Narmada river runs along at least 33 villages in Maharashtra that have limited or no road access. Several villages rely on water transport for visiting other parts of the district in Dhadgaon and Akkalkuan block.
Additional collector Jagdale said that the government had provided two boats — one anchored at Bhusha and second at the far end in Manibeli, towards Sardar Sarovar Dam — to serve for transportation. Local residents, however, said that with low frequency and unavailability of boat in all villages, several opt for private boats for transportation. These boats also ferry villagers between Gujarat and Maharashtra.