Madhubani, Aug. 10: Six women, who tried to row boats on their own to cross the Kosi, drowned at Balthi Ghat this morning.
The women were trying to cross the river so that they could cut the grass on the other side of the riverbank to feed their animals.
Sources said around 22 people were on the boat against its capacity of 12.
One person also went missing after the tragedy struck at 9am. The overcrowded boat capsized in the mainstream under Madhepur block, around 240km northeast of Patna.
When the incident occurred, the sailor of the drowned boat was not available at Balthi Ghat.
“Instead of waiting for the sailor, the women decided to row the boat on their own. Later, they lost control when the boat reached the main stream, resulting in the accident,” district magistrate Adesh Titarmare said.
The district administration has around 52 boats at different ghats on the river. It has arranged for boatmen.
Titarmare added: “We have 52 boats near the ghats that are being run by hired sailors for the past 20 days. The women should have waited for the boatman. According to rules, each deceased will be given Rs 2 lakh — Rs 1.5 lakh from the national disaster relief fund and Rs 50,000 from the chief minister’s relief fund.”
The deceased were in the twenties and one of them was married. They have been identified as Rukhshana Khatun, Shanana Khatun, Amina Khatun, Rahmati, Musraf Pravin and Shannu. They were all residents of Balthi village. One Ashbiri Khatun is missing.
Soon after the boat overturned, residents of the area, who have been trained by experts of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), rescued around 12 people who were also in the boat. Over 300 sailors were trained to tackle critical situations during flood.
The training helped in saving many lives today. The NDRF team has been put to service to search for Ashbiri Khatun.
Principal secretary of the disaster management department Vyasji said: “Soon after we got the information about the boat mishap, we directed an NDRF team to carry out the rescue operation. A team from Supaul (around 60km from the incident site) reached Balthi Ghat immediately. They are carrying out a search operation. We do not have the provision to guard the river ghats. We will dole out a relief of Rs 1.5 lakh to each bereaved family. Chief minister Nitish Kumar later announced that in addition to the Rs 1.5 lakh relief, a sum of Rs 50,000 would be given to the families of the victims.”
Sources said women rowing boats is common in the areas but it was unfortunate that they failed to handle the current of the river at the time when there was no flood.