200 People Still Missing in Assam Boat Tragedy


Guwahati, May 1: Over 200 people including women and children are still missing, after concluding a 23 hour search after a tragic boat accident in Brahmaputra River located in the Dhubri district of Western Assam.

Rescue teams composed of members of the Police, NDRF, BSF water sections, an army helicopter and local people were involved in the search operations on Tuesday to help find survivors.

On Monday night, rescue workers fought heavy wind and rain and were able to find 68 bodies, while more than 200 people are still missing.

Overcrowded Bhutbhutti speedboat in the Brahmaputra river
Overcrowded Bhutbhutti speedboat in the Brahmaputra river in Northeast Indian State, Assam. Main transportation in the region.

Assam police DGP Jayanta Narayan Choudhury, said the overcrowded ferry, with more than 350 people including women and children onboard had sailed from the Dhubri town to Hatsingimari, but the motorized boat got caught under a cyclonic storm and capsized in the Bura-Buri area near Jaleswar.

“The two-deck boat’s capacity was 225, but it was carrying more than 350 people and there were no lifejackets or lifebelts onboard,” Hasmat Ali, a local villager said.

Meanwhile, rescue teams with the help of a helicopter searched the bank of the Brahmaputra River along the Bangladesh border. The Assam government asked Bangladesh to help in the search to find survivors.

The Assam government announced on Tuesday that a payment of Rs 1.50 lakh would go to each of next of kin for those who died in the boat tragedy.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his grief to the families of the victims, and announced Rs 2 lakh for each of the next of kin of the victims.

Earlier the Assam government minister Rockybul Hussain, Chandan Brahma and Nazrul Islam rushed to the area and assessed the situation.

A NewsBlaze investigative report, Indifference of Indian Authorities Allows Boat Mishaps, first published in 2009, well before the time of this tragedy, documents massive overcrowding and lack of regulation of river transport. That report was ignored by the government, as they have ignored other reports and other drownings.

Hemanta Kumar Nath is a correspondent in Assam, India, who reports on local news in Assam, the north east Indian state.