x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

100 dead and 100 missing in Indian ferry disaster

More than 100 people drowned and at least 100 were still missing last night after an overloaded ferry capsized and sank in heavy wind and rain.

GUWAHATI, INDIA // More than 100 people drowned and at least 100 were still missing last night after an overloaded ferry capsized and sank in heavy wind and rain.

About 100 passengers were rescued but the weather was hampering the work of emergency teams.

Farmers and their families were sitting on the roof of the ferry when it tipped over on a kilometre-wide stretch of the Brahmaputra river in Assam state close to China and Bangladesh, about 350km west of the state capital, Gauhati.

“It is still raining heavily and there is almost zero visibility in the area,” said PC Saloi, a police officer at the scene.

Mohan Lal, a senior officer with the Border Security Force, said 35 troops were at the accident site on boats and were using hand-held searchlights. A team of federal rescue workers was on its way.

Witnesses said the vessel was old and broke in two after capsizing in the swollen river, one of Asia’s largest. Smaller boats often get into trouble, but the ferry was the largest to sink in recent years.

The area is dotted with riverside settlements and small islands, and boats are the most common mode of transport. Most ferries are overcrowded, with little regard for safety regulations. The boat was packed with people and sacks of rice, among other goods, and carried no lifeboats or life jackets.

The prime minister Manmohan Singh, who represents Assam in the upper house of parliament, said he was “shocked and grieved”.