Guwahati, Sep 06 (IANS): A day after a boat capsized in the Brahmaputra leaving two persons dead, the Assam government is yet to ascertain as to how many people died in the accident.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), a state team and the Indian Army have been carrying out rescue operations since yesterday. They have rescued 15 persons from the wrecked boat and recovered two bodies.
Although Inland Water Transport (IWT) officials said there were 24 passengers and ten motor cycles on board, some of the eyewitnesses and survivors said that there were more people on the boat.
"It is difficult to ascertain the total death toll. We have recovered two bodies and received reports about two missing persons," Kamrup Deputy Comissioner Kamal Baishya said on Thursday.
"There are obviously more than 24 people on the crowded boat. The moment I boarded, I could sense that the condition of the boat was poor. However, I had to reach the other side urgently, so I sat with my fingers crossed," said a survivor.
"First, the boat engine stopped. The water current in river was high and within a few minutes, the choppy water pushed the boat downstream and it hit the concrete poles under water, wrecking it completely," the survivor said.
While he could swim across, he helplessly saw people going down.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has already ordered an inquiry, which will be headed by Additional Chief Secretary Jisnu Baruah. The government has suspended plying of mechanized country boats throughout the rainy season.
The mechanized boats are key modes of transportation in different parts of Assam. Although the IWT department is supposed to ensure safety measures such as life jackets in these boats, laxity in implementing these steps has led to many boat tragedies.
Assam's BJP-led government, which organised a mega river festival Namami Brahmaputra last year to showcase the inland water transport potential of the state, has done little to upgrade the infrastructure.