One woman died, while around 35 people, including women, went missing after a boat with over 120 people on board sank in the Brahmaputra river following a collision with another vessel on Wednesday near Neamatighat in Assam’s Jorhat district, officials said.
A senior official of the Assam State Disaster Management Authority said that a woman died in Jorhat hospital after she was rescued.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Shipping, Ports and Waterways Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who hails from Assam, have expressed deep anguish at the accident.
Modi and Shah talked with Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
According to police, the accident occurred when private boat ‘Ma Kamala’ travelling from Neamatighat to Kamalabari ferry point in Majuli island, while ferry ‘Tripkai’, operated by the state Inland Water Transport (IWT) Department was heading for Neamatighat.
Jorhat district administration and police officials said that the police and the disaster management personnel located the capsized boat about 350 metres from the riverbank.
“We have rescued around 40 people on board the boat and the vessel from various places downstream. However, around 35 people are missing till late evening,” a police official told the media, adding that the searches for the missing people are on.
The National Disaster Response Force and State Disaster Response Force personnel rescued the people on board, the police official said.
Officials said about 30 two-wheelers onboard the capsized ferry went underwater.
Boat ferries are the only mode of communication between river island Majuli and Jorhat district and the transport over the river is often hazardous and risky specially during the monsoon months (June to September) when the river remains swollen.
Majuli, world’s biggest river island, is accessible by road from the northern bank of the Brahmaputra for most part of the year.
An official statement said that Sarma, who expressed his deep shock and concern over the boat accident, directed the administration of Majuli and Jorhat to undertake rescue missions expeditiously with the help of the NDRF and the SDRF. The Chief Minister, who would visit Neamatighat on Thursday, also directed Power Minister Bimal Bora to immediately visit the incident site to take stock of the situation.
He asked his Principal Secretary, Samir Kumar Sinha, to monitor the developments round the clock.