MEDERTARY GHAT, May 2 � Six more bodies of the ill fated ferry which capsized on April 30 were recovered today, while, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, Assam Pradesh Congress Committee president Bhubaneswar Kalita and Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain today visited the area and consoled the members of the bereaved families.
More than 200 persons are still reported missing and no one still knows the exact death toll in the incident and the local people today staged a demonstration in the area in protest against the alleged inaction of the administration. The people of the locality, particularly the family members of those missing, are aggrieved at lack of adequate measures by the administration to recover the dead bodies and they demanded that the Government should take steps to recover the bodies.
The local people today recovered six bodies around five kilometres downstream of the area where the accident took place and handed them over to the security personnel engaged in the rescue operations. With the recovery of these bodies, the total number of bodies recovered so far has increased to 47 and 36 of them have been identified. The bodies recovered today have been identified to be those of Rokeya Khatun (Aged 4 years), Salima Khatun (6), Saimona Khatun (6), Rohiman Biwi (36) Beauty Khatun (40 days) and Saiful Islam (8).
Because of the strong current in the river, the bodies were swept downstream and the local people are of the view that the authorities should have started rescue and recovery operations in the downstream areas earlier. The international border with Bangladesh is around 70 kilometres downstream of the spot where the accident took place and the possibility of some bodies swept down to the neighbouring country cannot be ruled out. The Government has already taken up the issue with the Government of Bangladesh.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister accompanied by Rahul Gandhi, Bhubaneswar Kalita and Rockybul Hussain arrived here this afternoon to assess the situation on the ground and they spoke to the members of the bereaved families. They assured all possible help to the affected families and directed the officials of the administration engaged in the rescue operations to expedite the operations.
On the other hand, the local people alleged that over the years, the authorities failed to ensure safety measures. The passenger carrying capacity of the ill fated ferry was around 200, but more than 300 tickets were issued and there were a large number of ticketless travelers on the ferry in addition to goods. That particular ferry was not in good condition and local people said that the owners wanted to repair the same two years back, but later decided to keep plying it without any major repair.
There are 11 ghats in the south bank from where ferry services are available, but only three of those are run by the Inland Water Transport Department and the rest by syndicates of 13 persons having their own vessels. Most of the vessels are in bad shape and on every trip they carry overload of goods and passengers to make more money.
The locals are also angered at the failure of the administration to provide them adequate information. Though a control room was opened last afternoon and the number of one circle officer was given as the contact number, the people could get very little information out of the same. Today the room has been closed and the administration informed the people that a control room has been opened in Dhubri town, which is across the river Brahmaputra.