By Bilal Kuchay
At least 19 devotees died when an overloaded boat that was ferrying them capsized in southern India on Sunday evening.
The accident took place in Krishna river about 15 miles from Vijayawada city, in Andhra Pradesh when the boat – with 38 people on board – set off to witness a Hindu ritual at Pavitra Sangamam or holy confluence.
The boat overturned near a curve approximately 50 meters away from its destination.
All the devotees including women and children rushed to one side, causing the vessel to tilt and capsize.
Unfortunately, they got trapped underneath the boat. None of them were provided life jackets.
15 persons were rescued by local fishermen and other devotees but four people are still missing.
Sambasiva Rao, senior police officer said: “The boat was overloaded with 38 people and none of them were provided life jackets.
“It capsized near a curve as it approached the Pavitra Sangamam point and most of the people were trapped underneath and were killed.
“19 bodies have been recovered so far.
“15 people were rescued by local fisherman and other devotees, who were present near the confluence.”
The rescue and search operation is still underway.
Police, state disaster relief forces and the fire service teams are trying to find out the missing persons.
Most of the people on the boat were said to be members of a local walkers club and had hired the private boat for excursion on the river Krishna.
After visiting various temples and sightseeing they boarded the boat to see the confluence that holds holy importance.
Even though the administration was investigating what exactly caused the incident, the initial probe found that the private boat operator did not have the necessary permission to ferry people.
Officials from the state tourism department said that it had objected to the operation of the boat and stopped it a couple of days ago.
However, the owner started operating from a different jetty without their knowledge.
Mukesh Kumar Meena, Tourism Secretary of the state, said: “The Tourism Department would file a criminal case of homicide against the private operator, River Boat Adventures, as he had only permission to operate only two small boats — a 2-seater and a 4-seater.”
The state government has expressed grief over the tragedy and announced a compensation of £5831 each for the families of those killed.
An inquiry was also ordered into the incident.
Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi while commenting on the tragedy said: “Capsizing of a boat in the Krishna River is anguishing. My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives in this tragedy. Andhra Pradesh Government and NDRF have been working on rescue operations.”