AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
GUWAHATI: Around 40 people were dead and 160 missing after an overcrowded passenger ferry with 350 people aboard split into two and sank in a river in northeast India today in a storm, police said.
“There were about 350 people on board when a storm split the steamer into two and so far we have recovered about 40 bodies and an estimated 150 people were either rescued or swam to safety,” Assam police chief JN Choudhury said.
Indian state-owned broadcaster Doordarshan said more than 100 people were feared dead in the ferry accident.
“The steamer was travelling with about 250 people on board when it capsized mid-stream in the Brahmaputra following a storm,” PC Haloi, police chief of Dhubri district, said over the phone.
The boat was on its way from Dhubri to the adjoining district of Fakirganjan when the accident occurred late afternoon, Haloi said, adding that rescue workers were rushing to the site.
“I could see people being swept away as the river current was very strong,” Rahul Karmakar, who witnessed the sinking, said. Dhubri is some 300 kilometres from Guwahati, Assam’s largest city.
Karmakar said there were women and children among those on board the ferry, which was carrying farmers and other local people.
Boats are a common form of transport in India’s remote rural regions and accidents are common due to lax safety standards and overloading.