Families of boat mishap victims drown in sorrow

Mahendra Thapa

Kapilvastu, July 15:

27 bodies found, over 50 missing.

Trauma rules the bereaved kin after the tragic boat capsize that caused 27 persons to meet a watery grave in the raging Banganaga river yesterday. More than 50 persons are still missing and a search is on for them. Kith and kin of those drowned have nearly lost their senses from sorrow. Birash BK, who lost five of her family members, keeps muttering dazedly, “What sin did I commit in the past that God gave me this pain?” The 29-year-old woman is nearly demented with sorrow, and close to mental collapse. Sanjay Kumar Gupta, who lost six family members including father, grandmother and aunt is similarly fraught. The ill-fated boat was carrying over 100 persons when it suddenly capsized. Most of those who drowned or got swept away were locals. Relatives and well-wishers are flocking at the victims’ kin’s houses to console them. Birash’s husband, who drowned, was coming home to perform the last rites of his mother. Along with him, his sister, Gayatri, his sister’s relatives — Raj, Khushbu, Golu, and family friends Ram Prasad Chaudhary and Ananda Sharma drowned.

Sanjay Gupta’s father Raj Kumar Gupta was en route home after picking up his mother, Rajidevi, who had gone visiting her maternal house in Maharajgunj accompanied by her daughter, Kamala, and nieces, Sarita, Pooja and Rani from Bardi-ghat. All drowned, said their relatives. Gupta has a betel-nut shop in Taulihawa. DSP Surya Upadhyaya at the district police office in Kapilvastu said overcrowding was the reason for the mishap. In usual times, the fare per head is Rs 10 while in the flood season it shoots up to Rs 20. Sources said that boat contractor, Halchal Mallah, had purposely allowed overcrowding in order to earn a few extra bucks. Mallah was on the boat at the time it capsized but he managed to swim to safety. Mallah is at large and police are looking for him.

A local, Murali Pasi, who managed to save himself, said there were about 100 passengers on the boat. Twenty-seven bodies were fished out and of these, 24 have been identified, DSP Upadhyaya said. The search for missing passengers is on with the Indian police assistance. As many as 25 persons managed to swim ashore. Scores are still missing. Two tractors have been pressed into service to pull out the boat but it is yet to be accomplished. Personnel of the army, police, and relatives of the victims are engaged in the search mission. Meanwhile, a meeting held by the chairman of the district natural calamity relief committee and Kapilvastu chief district officer, Dipak Raj Joshi, has decided to allot Rs 3,000 to each bereaved family as expenses for performing the last rites of the dead.