Andhra boat vessel on maiden trip had no govt approval, toll rises to 21

One of the four passengers admitted to a hospital in Vijayawada died Monday evening, taking the toll in Sunday’s boat tragedy near Ibrahimpatnam to 21.

The government said the ill-fated boat was on its maiden voyage in the Krishna river without obtaining requisite permission from the authorities.

“The boat belonging to a private agency River Boating Adventure Company was a new boat that entered the waters only on Sunday. It made a couple of trial runs in the river in the morning. It got permission neither from irrigation department nor the tourism department. We have ordered an inquiry as to how it carried passengers,” Andhra Pradesh tourism minister Bhuma Akhila Priya told media persons in Vijayawada on Monday.

In a statement in the state assembly on Monday, chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu said that there were a total of 41 people on board, including two crew members. “As many as 20 bodies were recovered from the river and whereabouts of another two persons were yet to be known. Three passengers are undergoing treatment in the hospital and the remaining passengers who were rescued from the mishap have been sent to their native places,” he said.

The tourism department released a video clipping showing one of its officials telling the private boat operator ahead of the tragedy that the latter would not be allowed to dock the boat at Durga Ghat jetty because it had no permissions. “For God’s sake, please vacate this jetty and get permission from the authorities,” the official is heard telling the boat operator.

However, the boat operator took it to Punnami Ghat side, where 39 passengers boarded the vessel to go to Pavitra Sangamam at Ibrahimpatnam to witness Maha Harathi on the occasion of Karthika Masam, a festival to worship Lord Shiva.

“The driver who operated the boat had no prior experience operating it in the Krishna river and did not even have the route map. There were no life jackets but the boat driver convinced the people to take the trip saying he will bring them back safely,” the tourism minister said.

Naidu said a criminal case of negligence had been registered against five people, including Kondal Rao in whose name the private agency was registered and his associate Gedela Srinu, who had operated the boat without permission. They were taken into custody and were being interrogated, he said.

Referring to the allegations of the YSR Congress party leaders that some higher officials of Tourism department were partners in the River Boat Adventures, Naidu said the government would not spare anybody if the allegations were found true in the inquiry.

The chief minister announced that a committee with senior IAS and IPS officers would be constituted to study the causes for such boat accidents and prevent them from recurring in future. He appreciated two fishermen – Sivaiah and Pichaiah, who jumped into water immediately on noticing the accident and saved 14 people and declared a cash reward of Rs 5 lakh for each of them.

Source: Hindustan Times

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