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5 months ago

Gujarat boat tragedy: 12 students and 2 teachers dead, 20 rescued; 2 arrested

VADODARA: Twelve students and two teachers died after a boat capsized in Harni lake on the outskirts of Vadodara city in Gujarat on Thursday, while 18 students and two teachers were rescued, state minister Harsh Sanghavi said.

Earlier, the PSO of Harni police station had put the toll at 16, comprising 14 students and two teachers. Those on board the ill-fated boat were on a picnic when the tragedy occurred in the afternoon.

“Twelve students and two teachers died in the boat capsizing incident. A total of 18 students and two teachers were rescued. We have learnt only 10 students on board were wearing life jackets. It proves organisers were at fault,” Gujarat Minister of State for Home Sanghavi told reporters.

An FIR under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) of the Indian Penal Code has been registered and two persons have been arrested, Sanghavi informed.

Teams have been formed to nab other culprits, he added.

Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel visited the site late in the evening and along with Sangahvi toured Janvi Hospital and state-run SSG Hospital to meet survivors and kin of the deceased.

Patel also monitored the rescue operation being carried out by personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and other agencies, including the local fire brigade.

Earlier in the evening, National Disaster Response Force officials said four persons were still missing and the search and rescue operation at the site was continuing with the help of deep divers, SONAR and under-water cameras.

In a message on social media platform X, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Distressed by the loss of lives to a boat capsizing at the Harni lake in Vadodara. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of grief. May the injured recover soon.” “The local administration is providing all possible assistance to those affected. An ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of each deceased. The injured would be given Rs 50,000,” the PM further said.

Vadodara Chief Fire Officer Parth Brahmbhatt had earlier said some persons were brought to safety by local residents before agencies arrived at the site.

The Gujarat government ordered a high-level probe in the incident and directed the Vadodara district collector to submit the inquiry report within 10 days.

A notification issued by the state home department said the collector is directed to conduct a detailed inquiry on reasons and circumstances which led to the tragedy, whether there was any negligence on the part of the contractor or any official and how such incidents can be avoided in the future.

Gujarat chief minister announced compensation of Rs 4 lakh to kin of those who have died and Rs 50,000 to the injured.

Gujarat Education Minister Kuber Dindor said a probe has been ordered after he learnt the boat was carrying more persons than the stipulated number.

“I have also learnt students were not wearing life jackets at the time of the accident. We will take action against those found guilty (of these lapses),” Dindor said.

A preliminary probe by authorities also revealed the boat, which was pulled out from the muddy waters, has only 14 seats, officials said.

The area around Harni lake on the outskirts of Vadodara in Gujarat was bustling with people, including distressed parents, after news of the tragedy spread.

“I came here to pick up my son after receiving a call from the school teacher that he was not feeling well. However, I realised he was on the boat. Thankfully, he was rescued by some persons as soon as the boat overturned,” said a man by the lake.

However, a man who sat sobbing at a nearby hospital was not as lucky.

“My daughter was on the boat. She had gone on a picnic. She is dead and I am here to claim her body. Who do I hold accountable for this tragedy,” he said crying.

Mukesh Khavdu, a youngster living near the lake, was one of the first responders.

“I was at my shop near Harni lake when the incident took place. When I heard the cries of a teacher for help, I immediately jumped into the water as I know swimming. I rescued four children from the overturned boat” said Khavdu.

The area was teeming with public as well as personnel from the National Disaster Response Force, the Fire Brigade and ambulances, with senior officials, including Collector AB Gor, monitoring the rescue operation.

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