Chilika tragedy death toll rises to six; questions raised on water journeys in Odisha


Bhubaneswar, June 17

Death toll in Chilika lake boat tragedy has up to six raising questions on the safety of water journey in Odisha.

The country boat that was carrying 15 passenger and two crew men sunk in the middle of the lake due to a sudden thundershower between Kalijai island and Balugaon.

Surprisingly, the state government which had drawn a safety guideline after the Sambalpur boat tragedy, was not being followed anywhere in Odisha.

None of the passengers had life jackets even as the state government had made it a mandatory for the water journey.

Had the passengers worn life jackets, they might have survived the tragedy, experts say.

It may be noted that about 100 country boats ferry tourists in and along Chilika lake every day and none use life jackets. The Chilika Development Authority (CDA) too has not been serious about the incident.

Khurda District Collector Nirmal Mishra said that the bodies have been recovered. The administration will take action as per the rule.

The victims of the boat tragedy comprised: Pramodini Das, her daughter Sradhanjali Das (8), Meera Pattnaik (11), Suchitra Mohanty (7), Kalpana Mohanty (21) and Sudhansusekhar Das (4).

All the victims were women and children.  Bodies of two women and a minor boy were recovered early in the morning while after an intense search operation by fire personnel and ODRAF, body of one more missing child was fished out.

Rabinarayan Das, who has lost his wife and daughter in the tragedy said, “While returning our boat overturned. I could see my wife and daughter struggling in the water but was helpless. An hour later when boats came to rescue us, it was too late as doctors here at the hospital declared my child brought dead”.

Expressing deep grief at the loss of valuable lives in this watery mishap, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh for the kin of deceased and free medical treatment for all the injured persons.

While conveying deep sympathy to the bereaved families, Patnaik had earlier directed the SRC, Khurda and Ganjam District Administration to expedite rescue operation and provide free medical treatment to the injured.

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