Two teenagers drowned while more than 20 people were missing as a single-engine boat carrying at least 36 people capsized in the Brahmaputra near north Guwahati on Wednesday, officials said. Eleven people have been rescued so far, they said, adding that the state government has initiated an inquiry into the accident.
According to official sources, the privately-owned boat was one of the many ferrying passengers from Guwahati to north Guwahati and served as a means of day-to-day travel for hundreds. It was returning from a ghat in the Fancy Bazar area of the city to Madhyam Khanda area of north Guwahati when it reportedly developed a snag, hit an under-construction water supply project and overturned.
“Bodies of two girls have been recovered so far. We have also rescued 11 people,” Sanjib Saikia, Additional SP Kamrup told The Indian Express.
Police have identified the two dead as Ankita Baruah and Dimpy Borah, both 17 and students of class XI of Cotton College. They have also detained the two drivers of the boat — Nooruddin Ali and Halim Ali — late on Wednesday evening. The two drivers, the police said, had escaped by swimming when the boat began to sink.
Meanwhile, some administrative sources claimed that the number of people rescued could be higher, even as some unofficial sources claimed that the number of passengers on board could have been more than 36.
Director of Assam’s Inland Water Transport (IWT), Bharat Bhushan Dev Choudhury told The Indian Express that the boat had valid registration up to December this year. “The engine had stopped functioning before reaching its destination and hit an on-going water supply project construction (site), before it sank,” Choudhury said. The water supply project is being constructed under the aegis of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Three people, on board the boat, were staffers of the IWT department and had helped to rescue several people after the accident, he said.
Top police officers, coordinating rescue efforts, said that four to five teams NDRF and SDRF were still at the site, and Indian Army personnel had also joined the search operation. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal ordered
a high-level inquiry into the accident. “Additional Chief Secretary Jishnu Baruah has been directed by the Chief Minister to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident. The Additional Chief Secretary been directed to investigate into the reasons responsible for the boat capsize and the factors triggering the accident and submit report at the earliest,” an official press statement said.