Dozens missing in India after boat sinks in Godavari River

Dozens of people are missing or feared dead after a private boat carrying tourists capsized in Godavari River in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh on Sunday afternoon.

The boat, Vasista, was carrying 61 passengers and an 11-member crew when it tilted to one side and capsized around 1.20pm at Katchuluru village, an hour after it left Singanapalli in Devipatnam for the scenic Papi hills near Rajahmundry.

Twenty-seven people survived the boat mishap because of the life jackets they were wearing or alert villagers of Katchuluru who saved them.

Bodies of eight people have been pulled from river so far as rescue operations continued into night for the missing 37.

The boat was operating without licence from the tourism department, the minister concerned, Avanthi Srinivasa Rao, said. However, the vessel was given permission to ply the river by the Kakinada Port authorities.

In the wake of the ferry tragedy, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has ordered cancellation of licences of all boats plying the river. He also ordered inspection of all boats.

He sought a report on the accident and instructed the officials concerned to coordinate rescue operations.

Investigators may question Kakinada Port authorities for allowing the tourist boat to operate regularly. The port authorities may also be asked to explain why the boat was allowed to operate on a day when the river was swollen.

The boat owner Ramana was silent on the issue of licence but he claimed the vessel could seat 90 passengers and was equipped with 150 life jackets.

Reports said most of the passengers were wearing life jackets during the boat journey and those missing may be drifting in the flooded river.

The spot where the accident occurred has a dangerous curve which boat drivers have to negotiate carefully. The place is noted for whirlpools.