The Telegraph
Saturday , September 22 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Monsoon spoiler for maiden cruise of foreign guests
- High water forces marine vessel to drop anchor at Simaria, tourists taken to capital in AC bus on way to Bodhgaya

Nineteen tourists from abroad taking a pleasure trip between Bengal and Bihar on a luxury cruise on the Ganga had to abandon the vessel and travel by road to Patna because of high water level in the river.

Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC) and Assam Bengal Navigation Co. jointly operate ABN Sukapha, which was on its maiden trip of 14 such cruises (seven each upstream and downstream) this season between September and March.

The tourists — 15 from Germany, three Swiss and one Dutch — began their journey on September 13 from Farakka in Bengal, around 320km north of Calcutta. They travelled through Rajmahal in Jharkhand, and Kahalgaon and Munger before reaching Simaria, 107km east of Patna, on Wednesday. There, it got stuck in the swelling Ganga that has risen because of heavy downpour since September 13.

ABN Sukapha could not move any further from Simaria Ghat because of unanticipated water level in the Ganga,” said BSTDC deputy general manager Navin Kumar.

He added: “The water-level was so high that the chimneys of the vessel were touching the Rajendra Bridge near the ghat. Several high-tension wires ahead were equally dangerous for its movement. So, it was decided to terminate the cruise at Simaria and the tourists were brought to Patna by road.”

They arrived in the state capital on Thursday and were taken to Bodhgaya on Friday.

“The German tourists will also go to Nalanda and Rajgir before its final destination, Varanasi,” said Navin.

“We try to ensure that no inconvenience is caused to the tourists. After assessing the situation, they were taken off the vessel and brought by road to Patna,” said Navin.

He added: “Such incidents have occurred in the Ganga in the past as well.”

In 2005, a barge got stuck under the iconic Howrah Bridge between Calcutta and Howrah but since then, the authorities concerned have created a green corridor to ensure that such an incident is not repeated.

The Guwahati-based navigation company, however, said the vagaries of nature had not affected the mood of the tourists.

“Our guests and we fully understand the problem. It is one of the vagaries of nature. We made alternative arrangements with the help of BSTDC and transferred our guests to Bodhgaya in an air-conditioned bus,” said Ashish Phookan, Assam Bengal Navigation Co. managing director.

He added: “At Bodhgaya, our guests from Germany are exploring many interesting sites there besides several others in Nalanda and Rajgir.”

The vessel is now waiting at Simaria Ghat. It will take another group of nine German tourists to Farakka on Sunday. ABN Sukapha has 12 air-conditioned cabins and offers a variety of services, including food and drinks. A tourist has to shell out $295 for a night.

Apart from the 14 cruises between Farakka and Patna, four special cruises (two up and two down) are operated in November from Farraka to take tourists to Sonepur Mela.