"Absence of quick response team led to high toll in Assam ferry tragedy'
Guwahati, May 4 (IANS) Lack of any quick response team (QRT) in lower Assam's Dhubri district as well absence of any life-saving equipment on the vessel led to a high number of casualties in Monday's accident when a ferry, with almost 350 people on board, capsized in stormy weather, a disaster management authority official said.
Of the total passengers, only 80 could be rescued, while around 70 bodies have been recovered and the remaining are still missing,
The district administration has been continuing with search operation with the help of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the Border Security Force (BSF) and the army, since Tuesday.
An NDRF official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the incident recorded such a high casualty figure as there is no QRT operating in the area. The presence of QRTs in the area could have rescued more victims, the official said.
"The National Disaster Management Act makes it mandatory to have QRTs - formed by training local volunteers in swimming and rescue operation, who can save the lives of the people immediately after the incident," said the official.
"States like Bihar and Maharastra have formed QRTs long time back in all the sensitive areas. They are being given honorarium from the funds under the Jawahar Rajgar Yojana (JRY). The services of the QRT are very important as they can start the rescue operation immediately."
The NDRF official also blamed it to the overloading of ferries as one of the major reasons for the tragedy and said that none of the ferries that ply during the day has any life jackets to be used during any disasters.
Meanwhile, Dhubri district administration has said that the search operation will continue. "We would have to continue the search operation. We are also in touch with the Border Guard Bangladesh. However, no bodies have been sighted so far that side," Deputy Commissioner Kumud Kalita said.
The local people are still claiming that over 200 passengers of the ill-fated ferry are still missing and that the bodies were either trapped underwater or washed away downstream by the strong current of the river.
On Friday also, a large number of people were seen gathering on the riverbank eagerly waiting for recovery of bodies of their near and dear ones, who happened to be in that ferry and are missing since then.
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