Guwahati, India: One woman is dead and dozens more are feared missing after two ferries, each carrying up to 90 people, collided on the Brahmaputra river in northeastern India on Wednesday, causing one vessel to capsize, officials said.
A wooden passenger boat departing from Nimati Ghat in Assam state’s Jorhat district flipped over shortly after the collision with an incoming ferry, authorities said.
“Preliminary investigation has found that there were some 80-90 people on board” the wooden boat that capsized, Jorhat police superintendent Ankur Jain told AFP, adding that divers were scouring the river for survivors.
“The two boats possibly collided due to some communication error.”
Officials said late Wednesday that 45 people had been rescued but one of them, a 28-year-old teacher, died later.
There were no details immediately available about how many people were injured.
No one on the other ferry was injured, officials added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was “saddened by the boat accident”, adding that “all possible efforts are being made to rescue the passengers”.
Water levels for the Brahmaputra - a mighty transborder Himalayan river system - have been elevated in recent weeks due to the annual monsoon deluge.
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.
30 two-wheelers onboard capsized ferry go underwater
“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.