Jorhat/Majuli, Sep 11: The search area at the boat disaster site at Nemati Ghat was expanded downstream of Brahmaputra river and to the surrounding areas on the third day of the rescue operations and hunt for the victims on Friday, official sources said.
Deep divers were also engaged at different locations to fish out victims but no trace of them was found, the sources added. The National Disaster Response Force engaged 110 rescuers who searched approximately 45 km downstream and surrounding area of the incident site on Friday, the sources said.
A few of its personnel on four boats searched the area with magnets to trace bikes which had fallen into the river during the incident but it is yet to be known whether any was salvaged during the day, the sources said.
Other agencies, including 55 personnel of the State Disaster Response Force, district administration and state police were also involved in the operations, which are still on, they said. At least one person was killed and two remained untraced when a private boat with around 90 passengers heading to Majuli had collided head on with a government-owned ferry near Nimati Ghat on Wednesday.
Union Minister for Shipping Sarbanand Sonowal on Friday undertook an inspection of the accident site and the surrounding areas by boat during the day and visited the residence of the missing person in Jorhat. He also met the injured who are admitted at the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital.
He said in Majuli that there had been complaints about the parking facilities for boats and ferries at both banks of the Brahmaputra in Jorhat and Majuli which led to the collision between the two vessels. "Nobody can play with the lives of people and as such both Centre and state government will jointly take steps to improve the facilities for the passengers".
Sonowal said both the Centre and Assam government are committed to complete the bridge over Brahmaputra connecting Majuli and Jorhat within the next four years and are jointly working towards it.
''''We all want a bridge on the Brahmaputra and both the state and central governments have taken necessary steps in this direction so that it is well constructed with the latest technology," Sonowal told media persons.
The process began in 2016 with the laying of the foundation followed by Bhumi Pujan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this year. At present the technical aspects are being examined, he said.
Sonowal who represented Majuli in the state Assembly, said "The people of Majuli have elected me twice as an MLA and also as MP. I have immense love, respect, sincerity and a special relationship with them which cannot be measured by the yardstick of politics. I will continue to do what needs to be done for Majuli and its people with sincerity, dedication and responsibility," Sonowal said.
Sonowal was elected to the Assembly from Majuli in 2016 and 2021 and was elected twice as MP from Lakhimpur constituency under which the world's largest river island is an Assembly segment.
A state cabinet decision was taken on Thursday regarding the construction of the Jorhat-Majuli bridge.
It also decided to entrust Finance Minister Ajanta Neog with the responsibility to constantly monitor its construction. In case of any gaps, the state government will provide the required additional support.
The cabinet had also entrusted additional chief secretary Maninder Singh to conduct an inquiry into the incident and directed the Jorhat Police to register a criminal case against those responsible for the accident.