| Rescue operations under way in Bhojpur’s Khaira village on Monday. Picture by Ranjan Kumar Singh |
At least seven pilgrims were feared dead when a boat carrying over 40 people capsized in the Sone in Bhojpur district early on Monday.
Six of the passengers — on way to take part in Malmaas Mela — were rescued by people in Sahar block’s Khaira village, around 85km southwest of Patna.
However, rest of the riders are yet to be found even as rescue operations are underway after personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were pressed into service.
The accident occurred when the boat, carrying mostly women and children, was crossing the river heading to Madsarwa village of neighbouring Arwal district. According to eyewitnesses, the boat was carrying about 42 people and it capsized in the mid-stream of the Sone that is already in spate because of monsoon.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of each of the seven victims — Jira Devi (50), Reshmi Kunwar (50), Basmato Devi (35), Ritika Kumari (5) of Dhawari village and Reena Devi (35), Reeta Devi (age not confirmed), Chhotu Kumar (10) of Khaira village.
District magistrate Pratima Verma rushed to the spot and took stock of the situation. “Rescuing the missing persons is the topmost priority of the district administration,” she said. However, till late on Monday evening, whereabouts of 30-odd riders are not known.
Bhojpur SP M.R. Nayak said that bodies are being fished out and the death toll has reached seven.
Of Rs 2 lakh to be paid to family of each victim, Rs 1.5 lakh would be provided by the disaster management department and the rest would come from the chief minister’s relief fund. Nitish also directed officials to carry out relief and rescue operations and ensure proper treatment of the injured persons.
Vyasji, the principal secretary of the disaster management department, said: “This year, there have been just two boat capsize accidents. Earlier, there used to be many but the numbers have dropped. The transport department has a set of rules for operations of the boats and the disaster management department is also very active now. The process of the registration of boats is going on at present. Today’s unfortunate accident involves a private boat, in all probability. We feel that the passengers were panicked after the boat started to sway hard, causing the catastrophe.”