India ferry disaster leaves 200 dead, missing
Hopes dimmed yesterday of finding more survivors after an overcrowded
ferry split in two and sank in northeast India, leaving more than 100
dead and around 100 missing.
Police said 105 bodies, including women and children, had been
recovered so far from the fast-flowing waters of the Brahmaputra river
in Assam state, where the ferry sank in a sudden storm late Monday
afternoon. Despite an operating capacity of 225, some 350 people were
believed to be on the two deck boat when it broke up mid-river in
torrential, pre-monsoon rains.
Police said some 150 were rescued or swam to safety. The ferry
carried no lifeboats or lifebelts and the chances of picking up more
survivors after a night in the water were remote.
“The weather is inclement and the river is rough so the rescue
efforts are being hampered,” state police chief J N Choudhury told AFP.
Strong winds had uprooted trees, blocking roads leading to the
disaster site and preventing some rescue teams from reaching the area,
The death toll could make the ferry sinking one of the worst in
recent memory in South Asia, where such disasters are common due to lax
safety standards, recklessness and overloading.
Survivors said many passengers had continued to board the ferry even
after the last tickets had been sold.
The bodies of the victims were being kept at a local hospital.
The boat was on its way from Dhubri, some 300 kilometres from the
state capital Guwahati, to Fakirganj.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the sinking a “tragedy”.
He was “shocked and grieved to know about the loss of lives”, he said
in a statement, adding he had given instructions “for all possible
assistance to the government of Assam in relief operations”.
Assam state chief minister Tarun Gogoi told AFP that Singh had
promised to rush disaster response units from New Delhi and other
In one of the last major ferry disasters in India, at least 79 Muslim
pilgrims drowned when an overcrowded boat carrying 150 people sank in
the eastern state of West Bengal in October 2010.
In March this year, some 138 people died in neighbouring Bangladesh
when an overloaded ferry carrying 200 people sank in the Meghna river
southeast of the capital Dhaka.