The death toll in the boat accident in Hirakud Reservoir here touched 31 on Tuesday, with the recovery of three more bodies. Even as the district administration claimed that overloading led to the capsize, Lions Club Sambalpur division president Ramesh Agarwal dismissed this theory saying the boat turned turtle after water gushed into it from the base.
“Overloading was not at all a factor,” 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 while in the middle of the Hirakud Dam Reservoir during the return journey and the boat’s propeller stopped working. We tried to drain out water using utensils and a hand pump fitted in the boat.
“We also raised an alarm and called up our drivers waiting on the reservoir bank and friends over mobile phone,” said Agarwal. A rescue boat reached the spot just four minutes before the boat capsized. “Everyone was in a hurry to board the rescue boat and the boat lost its balance,” he said. Lauding the role of boatmen who reached the spot immediately and some of the fellow members who saved many lives, he said the administration played an important role in the rescue operation.
Of the total 31 victims, 30 were picnickers of Lions Club. The other victim was identified as Amarendra Rout, 30, an employee of Hindalco Industries Limited at Hirakud. The three bodies recovered on Tuesday were identified as that of Sampad Saraf, 44, Sruti Agrawal, 13, and Ishant Neutia, 3, all from Sambalpur town.
Earlier, the rescue team had recovered 28 bodies, including 11 on Sunday and 17 bodies on Monday. Revenue Divisional Commissioner Pramod Meherda visited the Sonutikra Ghat when the rescue operation was on.