One dead, over 35 missing after two boats collide in Assam's Brahmaputra river

Express News Service

GUWAHATI: One person died while some 35 others were reported missing after two ferries collided with each other in the flooded Brahmaputra in Assam.The accident occurred barely around 100 metres from Neamatighat in Upper Assam’s Jorhat district at around 3:30 pm on Wednesday.The tragedy had struck the passengers of ‘Maa Kamala’ which had set sail for Kamalabari in river island Majuli from Neamatighat. It capsized and then sank moments after colliding with ‘Tipkai’, a bigger ferry which was en route to Neamatighat from Kamalabari.Official sources said the body of one person was retrieved so far while 42 others survived after they managed to swim ashore or were rescued by the locals. The rescued passengers included seven children. Some of the rescued persons were admitted to hospitals.”There was perhaps a communication problem and the boats collided. After the collision, one capsized and sank. The second boat could have also capsized but the police and locals managed to secure it,” Jorhat Superintendent of Police Ankur Jain told this newspaper.He said some 75 people were on board the ferry that capsized and around 35 people were missing.“The boat that sank was retrieved around 350 metres away. The personnel of NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) and SDRF (State Disaster Response Force) are conducting the search and rescue operations,” the SP added.Official sources said there were 27 two-wheelers on the ill-fated ferry. They said such ferries carry around 70-80 people along with vehicles, mostly two-wheelers. However, the locals claimed there were 100-120 passengers. These mechanised boats are the lifeline of people of Majuli.The ferries on the Brahmaputra operate under the Inland Water Transport Department. Since tickets are not issued to passengers and records are not maintained as such, there is no data on the number of passengers. The passengers are required to pay the fare on board.In a video aired by a local TV channel, some passengers were seen jumping off the sinking boat and struggling to climb another ferry, ostensibly Tipkai.Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Saddened by the boat accident in Assam. All possible efforts are being made to rescue the passengers. I pray for everyone’s safety and well-being.”Home Minister Amit Shah called up Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to take stock of the situation.At Sarma’s direction, Minister Bimal Bora left for Jorhat from Guwahati. Sarma will visit Neamatighat on Thursday to assess the situation.