37 rescued, five missing in Saptakoshi boat capsize

Gaighat, September 17

As many as 37 persons were rescued after a boat capsized in the Saptakoshi River today morning.

More than five people have gone missing in the river.

The boat was headed for Prakashpur from Koshi Tappu in Sunsari when the incident occurred. The boat that had embarked from Sri Lanka Island in Koshi Tappu sank in the Rajabash area at 11:30am.

Of the rescued, two are children, 13 females, and 22 males, said SP Poshraj Pokhrel at District Police Office, Sunsari.

Most of the people on board were from Sri Lanka Island. They were heading to the nearby haat bazaar (local market) of Rajabhash to sell their products and purchase daily essentials.

“The exact number of people on board is yet to be ascertained,” said SP Pokhrel.

Two boatmen were rowing the boat. “One boatman came to the police immediately after the incident. But, the other has gone out of contact,” said SP Pokhrel.

As per the boatman, the boat was carrying 42 people.

“Based on the data given by the boatman, we’ve estimated that five people are still missing in the river,” SP Pokhrel added.

Police attributed the accident to negligence on the part of the boatmen who had allowed 42 people on board although the boat had a carrying capacity of only up to 25 people. Police said the boat had possibly capsized due to overloading coupled with the fast flow of the Saptakoshi River.

SP Pokhrel said they were yet to establish the identities of the people missing in the river as their relatives had not contacted the police.

Immediately after the incident, Sunsari CDO Mohan Chapagain and SP Pokhrel had reached the incident site while personnel from Nepali Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force carried out the rescue operation.

More than 50 security personnel in seven boats were deployed for the rescue operation.

Two persons were killed in a boat capsize at the same place two years ago.

In the wake of frequent boat capsizes, Sunsari and Udayapur district administration offices had made life jackets mandatory for passengers’ safety. Boat operators, however, have been defying the diktat.

Badri Prasad Kafle of Prakashpur, said most of the boat operators had not managed life jackets for passengers. “The boat operators should not be given permission to ferry passengers unless they managed life jackets for everyone on board,” Kafle said.