12 missing in Bengal boat capsize, delayed rescue triggers violence (Third Lead)

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Kolkata, May 15 (IANS) At least 12 people went missing after an overcrowded boat capsized in the Hooghly River in West Bengal’s Burdwan district, while search operations continued late into the day, officials said on Sunday.

The incident happened late Saturday night near Kalna in Burdwan when the boat was on its way to Shantipur in Nadia district.

Alleging delays in rescue operations, local people resorted to rioting and set afire at least five boats and stoned policemen resulting to at least two of the security personnel sustaining inquires.

“So far we have received reports of 12 people missing, five from Kalna in Burdwan and seven from Nadia. Some more people have been claimed to be missing. We are verifying those claims,” said Nadia District Magistrate Vijay Bharti.

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Bharti attributed “overcrowding” behind the boat capsizing.

Locals, however, claimed over 50 have drowned.

“The boat had over 100 passengers including many children. The boat capsized around 11 p.m. but police came only in the morning and the rescue operation started late in the afternoon. Over 50 people have drowned,” claimed a local man.

Angered by the delays in rescue work, people set on fire several boats in Shantipur’s Nrisinghapur Ghat jetty and stoned policeman, injuring at least two security personnel.

Police fired several tear gas shells to disperse the crowd and detained at least 20 of the protestors.

The administration denied any delay.

“There was no delay in the rescue work and the law and order situation that arose was due to some other reason. The administration acted swiftly to restore peace. Two policemen have sustained injuries,” added Bharti.

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A 54-member team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) too joined the rescue operation.

State minister Swapan Debnath too denied the charge of delay.

“Rescue operation began as soon as the administration got the news. Already several people have been rescued. At the behest of their political masters, some people are making false accusations,” he said after visiting the accident site.



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