The Telegraph
Friday , December 14 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Close shave for 200 in mid-river

- Boat gets stranded owing to snag, fog

Dhubri, Dec. 13: Nearly 200 passengers had a close shave last night when the Dhubri-Fakirganj boat got stranded in the Brahmaputra near Dhourbari-Kaizar char village in Dhubri district, reportedly because of an engine fault coupled with fog.

A source said the boat carrying around 300 passengers left Dhubri ghat at 3.30pm yesterday and was to reach Fakirganj around 6pm but its engine developed a snag and it got stranded in mid-river for nearly one hour.

Samser Ali, a passenger from Phulbari, said the boat was stranded first owing to a technical snag in the engine. The boat was repaired and sailed again but this time, the pilot lost the way because of heavy fog.

“Nearly 200 passengers were stuck in the middle of the river without any help or assistance. There was no mobile network but somehow the inland water transport officials were contacted,” Monowar Ali, another passenger from Hatsinghimari, said.

The sectional officer of Dhubri inland water transport, Prafulla Kalita, said all the passengers were rescued and brought to Fakirganj ghat in two trips.

“At Dhubri ghat, the first boat scheduled to carry passengers was changed after it developed a snag in the engine. Then the second boat, which later sailed for Fakirganj, also developed a technical snag. However, after it was repaired and started sailing, it got grounded owing to the low water level in the river and fog,” Kalita said.

Kalita said because of the heavy fog, the pilot lost his way and the boat got grounded but all the passengers were safely brought to Fakirganj ghat at around 10pm yesterday.

An IWT source said owing to the emergence of numerous chars (river islands) and the falling water level, it becomes difficult to navigate the boat smoothly after dusk.

Dhubri sub-divisional officer R.C. Malakar said the district administration was making efforts to streamline river transportation.

“All boat owners were asked to get their vehicles registered with the inland water transport department. Already 26 owners have obtained the licence and we are expecting the registration of another 631 boats by January next year,” Malakar said.