Death toll in the tourist boat tragedy at river Godavari in Andhra Pradesh has mounted to 19 as seven more bodies were retrieved on Tuesday. But taking out the boat that sank over 315 feet deep in the river is proving to be a herculean task, police said.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Md Ehsan Raza said 19 bodies were recovered so far and many more could be trapped inside the boat. Teams of divers of Navy and NDRF continued the search for the bodies.
The search teams found the bodies floating far away from the accident spot at Kachhuluru in East Godavari district. One body was found near the coffee dam of Polavaram project while another was recovered near new Pattiseema and was identified as that of a person from Hyderabad based on an ID card.
One body was found near a crest gate of Sir Arthur Cotton Barrage at Dowaleswaram, police said. Identity of some of the deceased is yet to be established, they said. The bodies have been shifted to the government hospital in Rajamahendravaram.
River Godavari has been in spate for the past few days and over 5.13 lakh cusecs of floodwater was flowing on Sunday when the mishap occurred. The Chief Minister had directed the East Godavari district Collector Muralidhar Reddy to conduct a probe into the tragedy.
The private boat was allegedly being operated without permission and survivors alleged that negligence by the driver led to the tragedy. Authorities had stopped boat services in the river for the last two months due to heavy inflows from upstream. The boat was operated despite five lakh cusecs of water flowing from upstream.
The driver was apparently not familiar with the topography as he steered the boat into an area considered dangerous due to depth of the river. Strong water currents and winds blowing at a speed of 90 km per hour are believed to have caused the disaster.
According to the survivors, the driver and the crew appeared untrained to deal with the emergency. “I jumped into the river after I saw the driver jumping into it,” said a survivor wearing a life-jacket who was among those rescued by locals.
However, both the driver and his assistant lost their lives. As many as 36 tourists were from Telangana, including 22 from Hyderabad.