Grief, anger at site of ferry tragedy

Dhubri (Assam): Grief gave way to anger at site of the ferry disaster in Assam`s Dhubri district that has claimed 103 lives as over 100 are still unaccounted for, 20 hours after the tragedy.

Hundreds of people congregated on the banks of the Brahmaputra for information about their family members missing in the ferry capsize, as rescuers braving torrential rain searched the river for survivors.

The search operation was being carried out by the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF), the BSF and the Army.

The double-decked ferry broke into two pieces and personal belongings of the victims were seen floating in the waters bearing grim testimony to the tragedy that occurred last evening. "The accident was waiting to happen. Private ferry operators blatantly flout norms by carrying people and goods much above permissible limit, but the authorities turn a blind eye to such happenings," Enamul Haque, a 27-year-old resident of Jaleshwar, said.

He said the lure of easy money drove ferry operators to disregard safety norms for the trip between the northern and southern banks of Brahmaputra, which generally takes around one and half hour.

"The government is not giving the correct figures. There were more than 500 passengers in the ferry who were crossing the river from Kacharighat area," Nazrul Islam, another local, claimed.

Islam is among many in Dhubri district bordering Bangladesh who have lost members of their family in the worst ever disaster that took place at 4.20 pm.

Locals claimed the ill-fated ferry was carrying many more passengers than the permissible permit. "Not a single body has been recovered since the morning when the NDMF, BSF and the state police took charge of operations. All the bodies were recovered by local people while 80 people were saved from drowning," Abdur Rahman Khaleque, another local, said.

For 31-year-old Sahara Begum, the wait for her husband has been a long one. Hussain was in the ferry and missing since the accident. "The Congress party comes begging for our votes every time elections are due, but their leaders and ministers are missing at the time of crisis," said a local youth.

A senior NDRF officer supervising operations said rescue attempts were being hindered by swift currents. "Rescue efforts are on but the inclement weather is hampering work," Dhubri Additional Superintendent of Police Prashanta Dutta said.
He said that two army helicopters joined the search and rescue mission.

A team comprising 12 divers of the Army Special Forces were transported by helicopters to the spot to speed up assistance, an official statement said here. Two columns of soldiers with rescue equipment and an equal number of columns of Army Engineers in three motor boats and life jackets were assisting in the operation.

A joint control room has been established to coordinate rescue efforts. A medical relief camp with three medical teams has also been set up to provide medical aid.