Over 200 passengers of a ferry that capsized in the Brahmaputra, near Medartary in lower Assam's Dhubri district, during a cyclonic storm on Monday afternoon are still missing.
Search operations by divers of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the Army and the Border Security Force (BSF) resumed on Tuesday morning.
According to the survivors, more than 400 passengers, including women and children, were on board when the tragedy occurred. While about 350 tickets were issued to adult commuters, there were many children without tickets.
Director-General of Police Jayanto Narayan Choudury told TheHindu that 17 bodies were recovered, there were 10 injured and 35 were missing. About 100 people swam to safety or were rescued.
However, the State Disaster Management authorities, quoting the police control room in Dhubri, said earlier in the day that 52 bodies were recovered so far.
When contacted at 6.15 p.m., the police control room said 17 bodies were recovered and post mortem was. “The earlier figure was based on information reaching the control room over the phone,” said a policeman.
India has sought Bangladesh's assistance to locate victims who may have been washed far away. The site of the tragedy at the Medartary ghat is about 50 km from Bangladesh.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced an ex-gratia assistance of Rs. 2 lakh to the next of kin of each of the deceased. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi also announced Rs. 2 lakh for the next of kin of the deceased and Rs. 50,000 for the grievously injured.
The State government has announced free treatment for the victims. Dr. Singh earlier on Monday spoke to Mr Gogoi and assured the Centre's help in relief operations.
President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, in a message to Mr. Gogoi, expressed her condolences and conveyed her sympathies to the bereaved family members.
Assam Transport Minister Chandan Brahma, who is camping at the rescue site, told journalists that the State government had ordered a probe to ascertain the cause of the accident and fix responsibility.
He said a new ferry service would be introduced in a week to provide better river transport facilities in Dhubri district.
The district administration deputed teams of doctors and magistrates to carry out post mortem examination on the spot. The State government also rushed special medical teams from the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital.
Keywords: Assam boat capsize