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103 drown in Assam boat tragedy

Over 100 go missing , Govt orders probe

From Our Correspondent

 GUWAHATI/Dhubri: In one of the worst boat tragedies in Assam, 103 people, including women and children, drowned and over 100 went missing when a packed motor boat carrying over 300 passengers sank in the Brahmaputra river after being caught in a severe storm midstream in this district on Monday.

National Disaster Relief Force head Alok Jha said the bodies of 103 victims, including women and children, were recovered by the BSF and the NDRF personnel near Jaleswar.

Deputy Commissioner Kumud Chandra Kalita said about 25 people swam to safety after the double-decked ferry capsized in the storm.

The bodies of the victims were kept at the Dhubri civil hospital, he said, adding the fate of the remaining passengers was not immediately known. The steamer had left Dhubri ferry ghat for Medartary in south bank of the district in the evening and capsized because of the impact of the storm.

The army, BSF’s water wing, National Disaster Force and police armed with mechanised boats have launched a massive rescue operation in the river but darkness, bad weather and strong current hampered search for possible survivors or the dead.

In another boat capsize, 12 people were missing when a boat sank in the same river at Jaleswar, officials said. The district administration has issued a red alert in view of the storm. “The storm has resulted in the tragedies and we are taking all measures,” Kalita said.

Dhubri Superintendent of Police P K Saoi said the accident occurred at around 5pm. “We do not have the exact number of passengers on board. But eye witnesses and some survivors claimed that there were about 300 people on board the ill-fated boat.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has ordered an inquiry and asked the district administration to look after the survivors.

Gogoi has rushed two senior cabinet ministers to the spot to oversee rescue operation while a team of doctors from Guwahati Medical College Hospital has been dispatched to the area to the aid of victims of the tragedy.

Condolences: President Pratibha Patil has expressed grief over the loss of life in a boat tragedy and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh assured the state government of all help for relief and fund for families of the deceased. The Prime Minister spoke to Gogoi to convey his condolences and assured the state government of all possible assistance in relief operations and also for assistance from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund to the families of the deceased,” said a statement issued by PMO. (With inputs from PTI)

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