Bengal trawler capsize toll rises to 23, 100 missing (Second Lead)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

KAKDWIP - The deaths in the West Bengal trawler capsize in the Muriganga river rose to 23 after five more bodies were fished out Sunday, even as divers from the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Kolkata Port Trust conducted a massive operation to look for about 100 still missing.

“We have confirmed reports about five more bodies being found today. The death count is now twentythree,” Srikumar Mukherjee, West Bengal’s minister of state for civil defence, told IANS Sunday.

The trawler, ferrying mainly Muslim pilgrims to Kakdwip in South 24-Parganas from Hijli Sharif in East Midnapore district, capsized Saturday morning in the mouth of Muriganga river where it empities out in the Bay of Bengal near Ghoramara Island.

About 51 people have been rescued so far, of whom 32 are admitted to the Kakdwip sub-divisional hospital. According to the survivors, the trawler had about 150-250 passengers on board when it capsized. Over a 100 are still missing.

“Officially, we have rescued 51 people. But a few other people have also been rescued by fishermen,” said Mukherjee.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee held a high-level meeting at Kakdwip and reviewed the search operations.

The search operations resumed Sunday morning, after being halted Saturday night due to darkness. A helicopter was deployed, while a hovercraft explored the waters over a five-kilometre area around the disaster spot.

“The water is very turbulent in the area, and this has made the work of the divers difficult,” South 24-Parganas District Magistrate Narayan Swarup Nigam told IANS Sunday, before the search was called off for the day as darkness descended.

“Coast Guard, Kolkata Port Trust and the disaster management wing of the state government are on the job,” said Mukherjee, who was at the accident site.

Five navy divers were flown in from the Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam.

Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy, who also went to the accident site, said sophisticated vessels have been pressed into service by his department.

Roy, however, accused the state government of having failed to put in place a proper disaster management system to tackle such tragedies.

Family members of the missing passengers, meanwhile, accused the administration of not doing enough to save the victims.

“What is the administration doing? If they had started the search operations a little early on Saturday, many lives could have been saved,” said Mastafa Sheikh, whose brother was on the trawler and is among those still missing.

Earlier Sunday, Railways Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee mourned the deaths.

“It is really very sad that so many people have died in the trawler tragedy. I express my condolences to the family members of the dead and the injured,” said Mamata Banerjee while addressing a railway programme at Anara in Purulia district.

She also said she would visit the place and meet the relatives of the victims Sunday evening.

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