Search on for missing persons

BHADRACHALAM, JULY 12. Search is still on for those reported missing after the boat capsize in the Taliperu river.

Officials confirmed on Wednesday that as many as 21 persons were washed away in the mishap. Search boats and launches carrying policemen and divers have been pressed into service at Dummugudem anicut and four ferry-points downstream. None of the missing persons could be traced till late in the evening. No bodies could be retrieved either.

Wailings rent the air at Tegada village where the people from neighbouring villages including the kith and kin of the missing were in wait right from the morning. As the search parties drew a blank in their effort to fish out the bodies, they became impatient. They insisted on engaging more launches in the search and as they were not forthcoming, they blamed the officials camping on the riverbank to monitor the operations.

The Endowment Minister, Mr. Dandu Sivarama Raju, who was in the temple town to attend an official programme, paid a visit to the place of mishap. He was grilled by the people for the poor road communications in the tribal pocket. They complained to him that the low-level causeway on the Taliperu river had been claiming two to three lives every year, but no bridge could be constructed so far.

The District Collector, Mr. A. Giridhar, ordered an enquiry into the boat mishap. The accident was attributed mainly to two reasons. The boat was overcrowded. The police personnel on duty at the ferry point tried their best to prevent some of them from boarding the boat, but in vain. But the people who got down from three buses were in a hurry to cross the river. They defied the policemen and got into the boat with their luggage. A few members sensed the danger and got down in the last minute and saved themselves.

Two boatmen who failed to negotiate through the flood waters, sought to pull it to the bank with the help of a rope. As they lost control over the boat, it overturned in the middle of the river after hitting the causeway. The boatmen had no account of the people who boarded at the ferry point. Officials said that there were less than 30 people when the mishap occurred. Others put the figure at more than 30.

The missing persons, as identified by the officials, included Mr. Ratnam, head constable of Charla police station, Mr. Rasheed, constable (no.131) of Yedulla Bayyaram police station, Mr. Subramanyamurty, a librarian, his wife and son (names not known), Mr. Sd. Basheer of Venkatapuram, Mr. Sanghameswar Rao, 56 of Suraveedu village, his daughter, Ms. Sangeeta, 17, Mr. Kalluru Adaiah, a cook of the ITDA hostel of Alubaka, Mr. K. Venkateswarlu, forest watcher of Subbampet, Mrs. K. Lakshmi, Village administrative officer of Venkatapuram, Mr. Narayana Swamy, Tekkal (Karnataka), Koda Giri, a second year degree student from Charla, Mr. Ganta Ramesh, Mr. Tumu Srinivas of Palvancha, his wife Mrs. Ramana, Mr. Guntupalli Raghavachary, Mr. Sabalam Veeraswanmy and Mrs. Yalam Mandamma.

A majority of persons who boarded the country boat were government employees. A group of Village administrative officials attended the farewell of the ITDA project officer, Mr. Praveen Prakash, and the Bhadrachalam ASP, Mrs. Bhavana Prakash, at Bhadrachalm two days ago. The bus services to Venkatapuram and Charla were terminated at the riverbank because of the flash flood.

Many of the bus passengers preferred to wait for the second trip and thus saved their lives. One of the missing persons, Mrs. K. Lakshmi, a VAO, refused to get into the boat. But her colleagues forced her to join them. While her friends helped each other in reaching the riverbank, they failed to go to her rescue.

Mrs. Boddu Lakshmi, a housewife, missed the boat in the last minute. As her daughter was operated upon recently, she could not join four of her family members who were already occupying the boat. Grief struck her family as all four were reported missing. The Telugu Desam district Convenor, Mr. Balasani Lakshminarayana, said his sister was also about to get into the boat but her hesitation only saved her. As the boat was overcrowded, she wanted to wait for the next trip.

The District Collector ordered the irrigation authorities to ban the operation of country boats at the Tegada causeway. He asked them to allow movement of the light vehicles and autos on the dam during heavy floods.