Assam: At Least One Dead, 33 Missing After Two Boats With Over 100 Passengers Collide

The incident took place near Nimati Ghat in Jorhat, on the Brahmaputra river.

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New Delhi: A boat and a ferry, carrying a total of nearly 120 passengers, collided on the Brahmaputra in Assam on Wednesday, September 8. The accident has resulted in the death of one person and at least 33 are still missing, according to NDTV.

The news of the number of dead is still trickling in, as rescue efforts to find missing persons are still on.

The incident took place near Nimati Ghat in Jorhat, around 350 km from Guwahati, NDTV has reported.

One of the boats is a state-run ferry. It was going towards the river bank at Nimati from the river island of Majuli, while the other boat was going towards Majuli.

Three officials of the Inland Water Transport (IWT) Department have been placed under suspension for alleged negligence of duty, while senior ministers admitted that there were lapses and the “guilty” will be punished.

An eyewitness told Assamese news channel Pratidin Times, “The ferry going from the Nimati ghat towards Majuli hit the other ferry coming from the Kamalabari ghat of Majuli. The ferry had a lot of women and children, aside from four wheelers.”

The eyewitness who spoke to the channel said that the area should have ideally been manned.

“A booth of the SDRF is just 200 metres away from the Nimati Ghat. It should have personnel at the site during monsoon but sadly there was none. Only after an hour or two did some policemen arrive at the spot.”

Jorhat deputy commissioner Ashok Barman told PTI that 42 people have been rescued so far and no body has been recovered from the water yet. “After sinking, it swept around 1.5 km away and stuck in the bed of the river. The boat is upside down now and we are not able to turn it around. Once we can do that, we will be able to see if anybody is stuck there,” he added.

Videos circulating on social media show passengers scrambling to remain afloat as one of the boats sink. The videos also show passengers belongings being swept away.

Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted that Majuli and Jorhat administrations were to undertake rescue activities with the help of the National Disaster Response Force and the State Disaster Response Force.

In his tweet, Sarma directed state minister Bimal Bora to rush to the accident site. The latter responded with a tweet noting he was headed to the area.

Union Minister of Shipping, Ports and Waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal, has also expressed concern and tweeted of having spoken to chief minister Sarma on rescue and relief operations.

Sonowal had been elected to the Assam assembly from Majuli before he vacated the seat for ministership in the Union cabinet.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also tweeted on the accident, promising all possible effort in rescue operations. CM Sarma also tweeted on Union home minister Amit Shah speaking to him over the phone and assuring him of the Central government’s help.

The only means of communication between Majuli and Jorhat, the nearest town, is through ferries on the Brahmaputra. These ferries are often overloaded. In the monsoons when the water level in the river go up, the ferries stop service for some time. The residents of the river island have therefore been demanding a concrete bridge for a long period.

In the run-up to the 2016 Assam polls, then union surface transport minister Nitin Gadkari had laid a foundation stone to build a bridge over the Brahmaputra connecting Majuli with Jorhat. Days later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, campaigning for the party’s chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal contesting from the island, reiterated it as his party’s poll promise to the people stating that even before the BJP government is formed in the state, the foundation stone has been laid for it which showed that his government was steadfast on the promise. However, the bridge is still a distant dream for the residents even though the BJP is well into its second innings in the state.

Note: This is a developing story and will be updated as more information comes in.