Meanwhile, officials claimed that all the tribals jumped out of the sinking boat and swam ashore. (Representational image)
Several people are reported missing after a boat capsized in Godavari river in East Godavari district in the state of Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday evening. The boat was carrying at least 40 tribals returning from a weekly market when it got caught in heavy currents in the river and capsized in between Devipatnam and Varapalli areas in the district. At least 20 people swam ashore while several others were reported missing.
The tribals, all belonging to the Kondareddi community, had taken a boat from Manchur tribal hamlet near Polavaram to go to the Varapalli weekly fair market. They carried rice, bananas, vegetables and fruits grown in the forest area along the river bank where they live in small hamlets. After selling off everything at the weekly market, the group left early, at about 4 pm.
Officials at Rampachodavaram Police Station said that the tribals were returning home in the same boat which they had hired to go to the fair market, before it got caught midstream Godavari due to heavy currents and overturned. Officials claimed that many of the tribals onboard jumped out of the sinking boat and swam ashore, while some are missing.
“We are not sure what caused the launch to capsize. We are interviewing those who swam ashore to ascertain what happened. The river is very narrow now and not very deep, so if the boat had a problem the boat driver can reach the river bank within five minutes. It is already dark here, we have to find out what happened onboard,” Additional SP Ajitha Vejendla told The Indian Express.
The private launch (boat) belonging to Lakshmi Narasimha Travels was not part of the tourist boats taking tourists to Papi Hills. “This was a medium sized boat ferrying passengers from one hamlet to other along the river. It is like water auto rickshaw: it carries passengers and goods at nominal rates,’’ an official from R Chodavaram Police Station said.
Last Friday, a launch carrying 120 passengers caught fire midway to the scenic Papi Hills. However, the driver of the boat managed to steer the boat ashore and and the mishap was averted.