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50 feared dead or missing in boat tragedy

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Andhra Pradesh Bureau

Overloaded boat capsizes in Srisailam dam backwaters

HYDERABAD/KURNOOL: At least 50 pilgrims were feared dead or missing when an overloaded boat in which they were crossing the Krishna in the backwaters of Srisailam dam on the Kurnool - Mahabubnagar border capsized on Thursday afternoon.

According to Home Minister K Jana Reddy, some 70 persons were travelling in the boat but only 15 of them could swim ashore to safety or were rescued by other boats.

The victims of the tragedy were going from Maravakonda on the bank of the Krishna on the Kurnool side to Manchalakatta in Mahabubnagar, a distance of 1.5 km, to attend a festival at Laxmi Narasimha Swamy temple at Singotam. Thursday was the concluding day of the festival which is attended by about 40,000 people.

A large number of pilgrims, including women and children, clambered aboard the rickety boat disregarding the protests of the boatman, according to Mahabubnagar Superintendent of Police K. Srinivas Reddy. He told The Hindu that the occupants almost beat him up and forced him to begin rowing the boat into the river. The boatman had made two trips earlier and was reluctant to make the third one. There were 50 adults and 20 children in the boat. The boatman had made two sorties earlier

Survivors said that owing to overloading, the boat began leaking when it was about 300 metres into the river from Maravakonda village. Panic-stricken passengers jumped into the water, said to be about 40 feet deep at that point, while others shouted for help. The operator of a mechanised boat passing by rescued 15 persons while three others swam to safety. Among those killed were family members of the boatman of the ill-fated vessel.

Expressing shock over the tragedy, Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who is camping in New Delhi, asked the Mahabubnagar district Collector and SP to take all measures to help the victims. Dr. Reddy is likely to visit the scene of the tragedy on Friday on his return from the capital. He asked the district-in-charge Minister G. Vinod to rush to the spot and coordinate relief work.

Meanwhile, the Government sought the help of the Army authorities and readied a helicopter to undertake rescue operations at Munchalkatta. Local officials began rescue operations using expert swimmers and boats.

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