A Hanif Ali
MEDERTARY GHAT, May 1 – Around 250 people are feared dead in yesterday’s Medertary Ghat ferry boat mishap on the Brahmaputra, which is one of the worst boat mishaps of the State in recent times. Altogether 41 bodies were recovered till 4-30 pm today. Thirty of the victims’ bodies have been identified. They include 13 women, 11 old-age pension holders and five children.
The incident has cast a pall of gloom in the five gaon panchayat (GP) areas in the vicinity of Medertary Ghat and those whose near and dear ones have become traceless are mounting pressure on the civil and police administrations to deploy more divers for accelerating the recovery of the bodies.
Some local people are also seen agitating being disgusted with the failure of the authorities concerned to recover the bodies of the victims of the tragedy even after 23 hours of its taking place. They also blamed the Inland Water Transport Department for its failure to bring the greedy ferry boat operators under control. They also resent the absence of any control room at Medertary Ghat.
President Pratibha Devisingh Patil has expressed deep sorrow over the mishap. In a message sent to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, the President also expressed her sympathies to the families whose near and dear ones have become traceless following the mishap. She also prayed for their safety, said an official press release.
Meanwhile, Ministers Dr Nazrul Islam and Chandan Brahma visited Medertary today and Chief Minister Gogoi has announced ex-gratia assistance of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of each of those killed in the incident. Earlier, Ministers Islam and Brahma had announced ex-gratia assistance of Rs 1.5 lakh to the next of kin of each of those killed and Rs 50,000 to each of those injured in the incident.
SDPO South Salmara-Mankachar subdivision Bhola Hazarika, who is supervising the administrative steps, told this newspaper that 41 bodies of the victims have been recovered and 30 of them have been identified.
However, the civil and police administrations are clueless about the number of those killed in the mishap and around 30 volunteers of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) have been looking at the current of the Brahmaputra at the spot helplessly. Border Security Force sources told this newspaper that their Bangladesh counterparts have been alerted in connection with the mishap.
Local people here are apprehensive that around 250 people have been killed in the mishap and most of the bodies of those killed in the incident have been washed away by the turbulent current of the Brahmaputra. The recovery of all the bodies that has so far been possible due to the efforts of the local people.
Survivors Shahjahan Ali (45) and Nurul Haque (29) of Medertary told this correspondent that the ill-fated boat was carrying passengers and goods far beyond its carrying capacity. The ramshackle boat also started its journey from Dhubri late by half an hour as its owner was more concerned with earning more by carrying more passengers and goods.
Those sitting inside the boat were trapped and had no way out to save themselves as the windows of the boat were shut due to bad weather condition and there was no life saving gears, like lifebuoys, in the boat.
The boat carried around 350 people and around 70 of them are believed to have survived the mishap. Most of the survivors were travelling on the roof of the boat, as, interior of the boat was jam-packed with passengers, said both the survivors. Shahjahan is a hardware shop owner at the Medertary Bazar, while Nurul is a farmer.
The people of Dingdinga GP, Chirakuti GP, Medertary GP, Nisinpur GP and Part of Jamadarhat GP usually travel by the ferry boat between Medertary and Dhubri. Most of these people are poor and hit by the erosion by the Brahmaputra. Each of these GPs has on an average around 8,000 voters.
The aged ones who met with the tragedy yesterday had gone to Dhubri, the district headquarter town, in connection with their old-age pension, said the local people here.
Leaders of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) visited Medertary today and assured steps to take up the matters connected with the security of the ferry boat passengers and adequate compensation to the victims’ families, with the appropriate authorities. The AIUDF delegation was led by MLA Hafiz Basir Ahmed Qasimi and the AGP delegation was led by MLAs Phani Bhusan Choudhury and Padma Hazarika. The Sadau Asom Karmachari Parishad also condoled the deaths in the mishap.
Those identified include – Hafiza Khatun (35), wife of Samsul Haque (43) of Medertary(Samsul is also traceless following the incident), Faju Sheikh (70) of Chirakuti Village, Moniruddin (50) and his son Kasumuddin (15) of Mondia Village, Khateza Begum (3) of Medertary, Mala Begum (27) of Medertary, Alek Fakir (65) of Dingdinga Part-I, Haran Ali (63) of Dingdinga Part-I, Moinuddin (65) and his wife Jahiron Nesa (62) of Dingdinga Part-I, Rubel Ahmed (8) of Parwa Village, Pakija Khatun (18) of Medertary, Ainal Haque (60) of Dingdinga Part-II, Tasumuddin (40) of Dingdinga Part-II, Fatema Khatun (30) of Fefkamaru Village, Sahidul Islam (22) of Medertary, Samiron Khatun (48) of Medertary, Bahadur Miyan (29) of Dingdinga, Moni Bala Das (40) of Medertary, Moinul Haque (65) Medertary, Kabita Choudhury (37) ANM of Seskamaru Health Subcentre, Son of Meher Ali (2) of Parwa, Montaz Ali (65) and his wife Maleka Khatun (55) of Medertary, Morion Bibi (42) of Kumri (her two sons, one daughter-in-law and one grandson were missing till 4-30 pm), Momiron Bibi (42) of Dingdinga Part-II, Lokman Ali (70) of Medertary, Rakibul Islam (4) a son of Shah Ali of Fefkamaru (his mother Nurjahan (40), his brother Saiful Islam (5), his sisters Saimona (3) and Beauty Khatun (40 days) are traceless), Samina Khatun (9) a daughter of Ashad Ali of Boinder Alga Village, Sebaton Bewa (70) of Chira Khowa Village.