At least 21 tourists, including three from Mumbai and 16 from Tamil Nadu, were killed when a privately-operated tourist boat sank off Viper Island near Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The diesel-run tourist boat named Aqua Marine was reportedly overcrowded and sank just a couple of nautical miles outside of Ross Island from where the tourists had boarded. The Andaman and Nocibar administration said 13 people had been rescued. Eleven people were reportedly still missing and feared dead.
A report in the Times of India said there were only 25-odd life jackets on board. Many passengers didn't even have these on.
According to reports, the boat had a capacity for 25 people, but was carrying 45 passengers. Most of the tourists on the boat were part of a package tour and had arrived in the islands on Thursday last week.
Deputy Commissioner P Jawahar said the incident occurred around 4 pm.
Locals from Viper Island alerted the police and a rescue operation was started soon after the boat sank, with divers from the Coast Guard assisting.
"The boat crew took 10 extra passengers just before it left the jetty at Ross Island. The boat was already carrying 35 people including crew," Gajendra Kumar, a tourist and DSP of Kancheepuram, was quoted as saying in the Times of India report. He was rescued along with his wife.
One group of tourists was from Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, another from Mumbai. One man was from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh and another from Kolkata
An ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh each was announced for the kin of the victims. Lieutenant Governor A K Singh ordered a magisterial enquiry into the incident. He reportedly also briefed Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde about the rescue operations. The boat owner would also be arrested for negligence, he said. He also reportedly asked the shipping department to review the safety norms for tourist boats.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also issued a statement expressing shock at the tragedy. "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed shock over the boat tragedy in the Andamans and has condoled the loss of lives," a PMO statement said. "The Prime Minister has asked all central agencies to immediately assist in the rescue and relief operations," it added.
A helpline was also set up at the GB Pant hospital where those rescued were taken. The helpline numbers are: 03192230629, 09933274092.
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Updated Date: Jan 27, 2014 10:29:35 IST