GUWAHATI, Sept 5 - In a tragic incident, at least two persons died while several others are fear drowned after the private country-made engine boat they were travelling on capsized in the river Brahmaputra this afternoon.
Authorities could not confirm about the exact number of persons missing.
Around 12 persons, who were on board, were, however, able to swim to safety or rescued.
The deceased have been identified as Ankita Baruah and Dimpy Das, both students of Cotton University.
Around 36 persons were on board, Commissioner of Guwahati Police, PC Saloi said.
The ill-fated boat � SB Brahmaputra bearing registration number 1149, which originated from Guwahati, met with the accident around two hundred metres before it could reach the shore near Aswaklanta temple in North Guwahati at around 1.30 pm.
The boat, according to the eyewitnesses, collided with a concrete structure of the JICA water project after the engine of the boat stopped functioning. JICA is constructing a pier at the site for its water supply project�s intake point.
Questions are being raised about the fitness of the boats operating under the Inland Water Transport (IWT) with many operators alleging that the authorities paid no heed to the safety features of the boats plying from Guwahati to North Guwahati despite several appeals.
It has also been alleged that there is no mechanism in place to regulate the passengers� load on boats and ferries, which is why most of the vessels carry excess number of passengers and two-wheelers.
�As there is a tendency to travel without ticket during the peak hours, it would be even more difficult to ascertain the actual number of persons on board,� official sources stated.
The operators� version however does not explain why they have been continuing with the practice of carrying more passengers than permissible limits. �It�s evident that the operators are flouting the norms to maximize their profits,� a passenger said.
IWT sources while conceding the lapses divulged that the 16-metre-long vessel had a capacity to carry three tonne load or 15 passengers. But, the operator issued tickets to 24 passengers. Three IWT staff were also on board, besides seven motorbikes, two bicycles and unspecified number of passengers travelling without tickets.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has ordered an inquiry into the incident. Sonowal directed Additional Chief Secretary Jishnu Baruah to enquire into the causes and circumstances leading to the incident and file the report within a shortest possible time.
Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup, Kamal Kumar Baishya told The Assam Tribune that the search and rescue operation was on and efforts have also been initiated to find out if any of the passengers had left for home without notifying.
NDRF and the SDRF personnel were immediately pressed into the rescue operation, besides private boats and those owned by IWT.
A spokesperson of the NDRF told this reporter that three teams of deep divers along with nine boats have been rushed to the spot immediately after the incident took place.
The rescue operation, which was halted later in the evening, will resume tomorrow around 5 am.