Kultali (South 24-Parganas), Nov. 3: At least nine persons, including seven women and two children, died when an overcrowded mechanised boat capsized in a canal here this afternoon.
The boat had reached the bank of the Jainal canal after crossing the Moni river and was about to anchor when passengers, eager to get down, huddled on one side. The boat lost balance and overturned. Eight persons were rescued.
The dead were identified as Barbini Gharami, 35, Kabita Gharami, 25, Gokul Gharami, 10, Nabakumar Gharami, 8, Subhadra Halder, 28, Dinanath Halder, 60, Hila Halder, 9, Suchiyra Gayen, 28, and Kajal Halder, 26.
Those rescued were admitted to Raidighi Hospital with injuries. Unofficial sources said 13 people had drowned. The boat was overcrowded as the passengers ignored the operator’s warnings and forced their way in.
Most of the 100-odd passengers, many of them women, were coming to Kultali to attend a public meeting at Dhakir More to be addressed by the CPM’s state party secretary, Anil Biswas.
The women who drowned belonged to the CPM’s frontal organisation, the Ganatantrik Mahila Samity. Mostly from the villages of Ateswar and Katlapur, they boarded the boat from Radhakantapur Ghat.
On hearing about the incident, Biswas cut short his meeting and left for Raidighi Hospital. Minister of state for Sunderbans development Kanti Ganguly and CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty accompanied him.
The CPM had called the meeting to protest the killings of party supporters over the past few months by alleged SUCI activists.
A pall of gloom descended on Dhakir More as news of the boat capsize spread. People at the rally, mainly women, broke down.
Anjali Halder, 35, who was on the ill-fated boat, escaped unhurt. “All the women in the boat were in a hurry to reach the meeting ground as they were planning to return home before sunset,” she said.
“Dhakir More is about 25 km from Ateswar and Katlapur. It is difficult to sail the boats once it gets dark. So we were in a hurry. We had never seen our state party secretary and we came here to see him,” Halder added.
Earlier, addressing the rally, Biswas said the CPM did not believe in “politics of murder”.
“We want peace and good relations with our Opposition. But the SUCI is killing our party’s supporters for the past few months. Already, 84 CPM activists have been murdered by SUCI activists in the region,” he alleged.
“We will not compromise with any political force that believes in violence. Kanti Ganguly will never resign as demanded by the SUCI. He will be here for the development of the Sunderbans,” Biswas said.