Close on the heels of the boat tragedy at Hirakud that claimed 31 lives, another tragedy was averted when a country boat ferrying people from Sambalpur to Mundo Ghat across river Mahanadi capsized after being caught in a strong gale on Tuesday. However all the passengers had a narrow escape and were rescued.
Ironically, the incident exposed the failure of the district administration to learn from past mistakes and the boat had been ferrying people illegally despite the State Government putting a blanket ban on boat services.
Reports said there were 12 persons, including five women in the country boat when the boat capsized in river Mahanadi on the downstream of Hirakud dam on Tuesday. The people had boarded the boat at Badbazar Ghat in Sambalpur town and were supposed to get down at Mundo Ghat across the river.
Boatman Upendra Singh said they were very close from the bank of Mundo Ghat when the gale led the boat hit a rock overturning it. While some of the passengers swam to the rocky island in the river to safety, the boatman also rescued at least five persons to safety. Sambalpur Additional District Magistrate, Jyoti Kumar Lakra, who had also rushed to the spot said all the passengers on board were rescued.
Badbazar Ghat, where the people boarded the boat comes under the jurisdiction of Sambalpur Municipality though Executive Officer of the Sambalpur Municipality, Aniruddha Padhan said the boat was ferrying people illegally.