Chilika boat tragedy: Survivors say there were no life jackets

Bhubaneswar/Chilika: Amid incoherent statements from Principal Secretary of the Commerce and Transport department, G. Srinivas and Minister Nrusingha Charan Sahu on the Chilika boat tragedy, personal accounts narrated by survivors of the mishap belied the claims of the State government that the ill-fated boat had life jackets and lifebuoys.

As per survivors, lack of safety equipment in the boat led to the death of six persons after the boat capsized on June 16.

Swarna Prabha Das, mother of four-year-old Sudhansu Sekhar, who died in the mishap, stated “When the boat lost its balance in middle of the lake, passengers requested the boatman to call up someone for rescue, but he did not do anything. Due to lack of safety equipment in the boat, the boatman expressed his helplessness.”

Earlier yesterday, Principal Secretary of the Commerce and Transport department had said that 20 life jackets were present in the boat and blamed ‘heavy wind’ for the mishap.

“Prima facie it looks like ‘heavy wind’ led to the mishap,” the official had stated.

On the other hand, Minister Sahu today said that the condition of the boat was not right and a hole in it caused the accident.

“The inquiry report says the boat was not fit for ferrying passengers and due to a hole, water gushed into it,” Sahu said.

Meanwhile, boatmen in Chilika are ruing as the district administration has stopped boat services for over a week now following the mishap.

“Following the administration’s directive, we are facing difficulties in sustaining our livelihood,” said Jugal Charan Behera, a boatman.

“The administration has stopped boat services. It is quite disheartening to return from this place without getting a chance to visit Kalijai,” said a tourist.