Haldia, Feb. 10: At least 14 people were feared killed when a trawler carrying a cargo of betel leaves and about 65 passengers capsized in the Hooghly at the tip of Nayachar Island off the port town early today.
“Around 4.40 am, Samudra dashed against a guidewall at the northern tip of Nayachar and damaged its hull as the helmsman could not steer clear in dark and foggy conditions. We have recovered 11 bodies, including that of a woman, and we fear that at least three more bodies are inside the vessel,” said Coast Guard commandant Randeep Kumar Wadhwa.
Samudra had left Sagar Island from Kachuberia around 2.30 am and wanted, in all likelihood, to touch the ferry point at Patikhali. Wadhwa said the vessel was swept away towards the underwater guidewall by strong currents during flow tide.
There was confusion over the exact time that the Samudra met with the accident. Local residents and the district administration said the mishap occurred around 3.30 am. Wadhwa and helmsman Sahajan Ali said it was 4.40 am.
“We were informed about the disaster only at 9.30 am and luckily we had a hovercraft on standby. We pressed it into service along with several smaller vessels, which carried medical personnel and a team of divers but it was too late. Many people had got trapped inside the flooded hull by then,” Wadhwa said.
About 40 people swam ashore and 15 were rescued, said additional district magistrate Debabrata Paul. The port authorities have been asked to provide gas cutters so that more bodies, if any, could be extricated, he said.