RAJAMAHENDRAVARAM: In a massive dawn-to-dusk search operation undertaken by NDRF, SDRF and Navy personnel from Kachuluru, where the tourist boat, Royal Vasishta, capsized, to downstream Dowaleswaram in Rajamahendravaram, for the 25 missing persons, the body of a one-year-old boy, was retrieved, taking the toll to nine in the tragedy. In the Sunday accident, 26 survived.
At least 24 are still missing, according to the AP State Disaster Management officials. But unconfirmed reports said at least 35 could still be missing. Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, who flew in to Rajamahendravaram, took stock of the rescue operations, interacted with the survivors and consoled the family members of the bereaved. He announced the constitution of a committee to inquire into the accident.
The committee, to be headed by Special Chief Secretary (Irrigation), will have Special Chief Secretary (Revenue), Principal Secretary (Tourism), Additional DG (Law and Order) and East Godavari District Collector as members. It will submit a report to the government in 45 days.
In the rescue operations in the early hours of Monday involving UH 3H and Chetak helicopters of the Indian Navy, NDRF and SDRF teams, the body of the boy was traced at Vadapalle.
On Monday, in the rescue operations in the early hours involving UH 3H and Chetak helicopters of the Indian Navy, NDRF and SDRF teams, the body of the boy was traced at Vadapalle. Though a UH 3H helicopter flew for more than three hours over a long stretch of the rive, it could not sight any bodies or survivors. It did not find any trace of the boat either. All the gates of Dowaleswaram Barrage were closed to prevent any bodies of the victims from being swept into the sea.
Jagan Mohan Reddy, after an aerial survey of the boat accident spot, interacted with the survivors who were undergoing treatment at the government hospital in Rajamahendravaram. Interacting with each and everyone of them, he consoled them and also got first-hand information as to how the accident happened. He asked the doctors to provide the best possible medical treatment to the victims without scope for any complaints and also wanted officials to make arrangements for shifting the bodies to their respective native places.
Speaking to media after the review here, Agriculture Minister K Kanna Babu said that though the previous TDP government brought out a GO for issuing boat licenses without specifying an authority to handle the responsibility.
He said the Chief Minister instructed the officials to set up a control room under the joint supervision of Police, Irrigation, and Tourism departments and initiate measures to ensure such boat mishaps do not recur in the future. “Hereafter, the irrigation department will decide when to permit operation of boats on the river and check the fitness of all boats,” he said.
“The Chief Minister also ordered the review of all tourist boats in the State apart from monthly fitness inspections. Violators of boat operation regulations will be dealt with sternly,” said Deputy Chief Minister (Revenue) Pilli Subhash Chandrabose.
Apart from ministers Mekathoti Sucharitha, K Kanna Babu, Alla Nani, P Viswaroop, M Srinivas Rao, T Vanita, Telangana ministers Puvvada Ajay Kumar and Errabelli Dayakar Rao accompanied Jagan.
Dayakar Rao said most of the victims and majority of missing persons in the tragedy were from Telangana. Blaming the previous TDP government for the boat mishap, he said there were loopholes in the guidelines issued by the previous regime for granting permission to private tour boat operators.
Meanwhile, police detained two persons, said to be associates of the boat owner Kodigudla Venkataramana, for questioning. The police have already registered cases against Venkataramana under Section 304-a and are investigating.
Wreckage found at depth of 350 feet in river
In what could make the rescue operations tougher, the NDRF found the wreckage of the boat at a depth of 315 feet in the river. Director General, AP State Fire Services and Disaster Management, A R Anuradha said that the NDRF team identified the boat at an approximate depth of 315 feet. “The missing persons might have been stuck in the deck or under the boat,’’ she said. She, however, added that the search operations will continue till the last of the missing person is traced. She also said that it is very difficult to retrieve the boat from a depth of 300 feet. The NDRF teams are using sonar scanners and victim location camera, which can go up to 150 metre depth