15 drown in boat accident

RAJAHMUNDRY NOV. 10. In a major boat tragedy, 15 persons, including eight women, met with a watery grave in the Godavari, near Ramachandrapuram village of Sithanagaram mandal in East Godavari district, 35 km from here, on Monday at around 6.30 a.m. when two country boats crossing the river capsized.

All the bodies were fished out from the still waters. As many as 25 others who were also crossing the river in the same boats swam to safety.

Some of the victims, belonging to the Ramachandrapuram, Vangalapadu and Sithanagaram villages, were identified as Ch. Suryakumari (48), Palle Venkayamma (45), Battina Ramana (35), Battina Nukaratnam (18), Muppidi Salomi, Sheik Chittemma (18), Thathipudi Durgamma (22), Mandapalli Ratnam (18) and Gatti Venkatachalam (35) and L. Posayyya (30). The missing persons included Sunkara Ramababu, Gatti Musalayya, I. Pochayya and Muddamsetti Sitaramulu.

The Minister for Cooperation, Chikkala Ramachandra Rao, who rushed to the spot, announced Rs.50,000 each to the families of the deceased under the Apadbandhu scheme.

The Collector, K.S. Jawahar Reddy, also announced Rs.1,000 each from the Red Cross for meeting the funeral expenses. This would be paid immediately. The bodies were sent to the Government Hospital here for post mortem.

With relatives of the deceased gathering at the spot, there were heart-rending scenes. In fact, the water spread in the Godavari at the spot was only to a length of about 100 metres and the depth of water was not more than 10 ft.

Three factors contributed to the tragedy. There was no "Sarangu" (boatman) to cross the river through the country-made boats safely. While the capacity of each boat was six to seven persons, there were 20 people in each boat and the two boats were loosely tied with a rope. Bags of manure in the boats added to its weight.

In the middle of the river, one boat started leaking and the panic-stricken persons tried to jump over to the other boat and in the melee that followed both boats capsized.

All the deceased were daily wage earners and they were going to the Lanka villages on the other side of the river to work in tobacco nurseries.

These labourers were engaged for watering tobacco nurseries for which they would be paid a daily wage of Rs.40 to Rs.50.

According to the locals, hundreds of labourers would be crossing over to the other side of the Godavari daily to work in fields.

Mr. Ramachandra Rao assured bereaved members of the families that he would speak to the Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, and arrange further help.

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