Hirakud Boat Tragedy Toll Rises to 31 - The New Indian Express

Hirakud Boat Tragedy Toll Rises to 31

Published: 12th February 2014 12:11 PM

Last Updated: 12th February 2014 12:12 PM

With the recovery of three more bodies from the Hirakud reservoir on Tuesday, the death toll in the boat tragedy has gone up to 31.

The three are  Sampad Saraf (44), Sruti Agrawal (13) and three-year-old Ishant Neutia, all from Sambalpur town. Of the total 31 victims, 30 persons were picnickers of Lions Club while  one has been identified as Amarendra Rout (30), an employee of Hindalco Industries Limited at Hirakud. He  was returning from Bandhbahal under Banharpali police limits in Jharsuguda district.

Earlier, the rescue team had recovered 28 bodies - 11 on Sunday and 17 on Monday. The rescue operation was called off after bodies of all missing persons were recovered, Sambalpur Sadar Sub-Collector Surendra Panda said.

Meanwhile, Revenue Divisional Commissioner (North) Pramod Meherda, who is probing the mishap, visited the Sonutikra Ghat here. A case has also been registered at Hirakud police station in connection with the incident. Police have also filed a case against the boat owner Satyanand Pandey of Jagannath Mandir Colony in Sambalpur town and the two boatmen - Akshya Rana and Anjan of Sonutikra area under Sason police limits here. Police said further investigating is on.

The District Governor of Lions Club Padma Charan Nayak along with other senior office bearers also arrived to meet the members of the bereaved families. Thousands of people from across the society gathered at the Rajghat in Sambalpur town where the last rites of the deceased were performed.

‘Despite Tragedy, We Will Continue to Serve’

Ramesh Agarwal is yet to come to terms with the tragedy. President of the Lions Club, Sambalpur division, Agarwal had never imagined that he would lose many of his fellow members in the boat mishap. He was on board the ill-fated motor-driven country boat. Refuting claims made by the district administration that boat capsized due to overloading, Agarwal said the ferry sunk after water gushed into it from its base. “Overloading was not a factor at all,” he claimed. He said the load was more during their onward journey with around 100 picnickers, besides regular passengers along with 18 motorcycles on board.

“Water suddenly gushed into the boat in the middle of the Hirakud dam reservoir during the return journey and the propeller of the boat stopped working. We tried to evacuate the water with utensils and through a hand pump fitted in the boat. We raised alarm and called our drivers waiting for us on the dyke of the reservoir and friends over mobile phone after we felt that it was difficult to throw water out of the boat,” said a tearful Agarwal.

A rescue boat reached the spot four minutes before the boat capsized. “Every one was in a hurry to board the rescue boat and the boat lost its balance,” he said. Lauding role of boatmen who reached the spot immediately and effort by some fellow members who saved many lives, he said the administration played an important role in the rescue operation. Agarwal said motto of Lions Club is ‘We Serve’ and 101 members of club are always ready to serve people in need.

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