An overcrowded boat with over 50 passengers, mostly tourists, capsized in the Bay of Bengal near Port Blair in Andaman and Nicobar on Sunday afternoon, killing at least 21 people. Union minister V Narayanasamy today said that there were no life jackets and no guides to save people. Officials say 29 people have been rescued and one person is still missing.
The boat, ‘Aqua Marine’, was reportedly carrying mainly tourists, including a large group of around 32 people from Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. It sank on its way from Ross Island to the North Bay at around 4 pm yesterday. Mohammed Rafique, the duty officer in Port Blair, said that the boat capsized about 300 feet from shore. He said the investigation so far suggests the boat hit a rock.
The passengers exceeded the boat’s capacity, Rafique said.
Many families in Kanchipuram have been left devastated as government sources say that at least 13 of those who have died belonged to this small temple town. KA Thyagarajan, a restaurant owner in Kanchipuram, lost four members.
Families say that they have learnt from the survivors that standard operating procedures were not followed. They say the survivors have told them that there were no life jackets on the boat, a mandatory requirement for such tours.
Suresh, a worker in the local silk industry, too lost a few family members.
Selvaraj, a popular tour operator in the area who owns Pooja Travels, organised the boat trip. His family too suffered casualties.
Two senior bureaucrats from Tamil Nadu have reached Port Blair to help in rescue and relief operations. The state government has said that it will bear the cost of shifting passengers to Chennai and their treatment. Government sources say the bodies of people who died are expected to be taken to Chennai this afternoon.
Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lt Gen (retd) AK Singh, told that the rescued people have been admitted to the GB Pant Hospital in Port Blair. He also denied reports that there was a delay on part of the government in launching rescue operations.
A magisterial probe has been ordered and the Lieutenant Governor has announced Rs. 1 lakh compensation to the families of the dead.
He has also spoken to Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and has briefed him about the rescue operations, according to sources.