x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 September 2017

At least 20 dead as boat capsizes in northern India

Residents of the area riot over slow official response to tragedy on Yamuna river

Rescuers search the Yamuna River near Baghpat town in Uttar Pradesh state after a boat carrying dozens of people capsized on September 14, 2017. Altaf Qadri / Altaf Qadri
Rescuers search the Yamuna River near Baghpat town in Uttar Pradesh state after a boat carrying dozens of people capsized on September 14, 2017. Altaf Qadri / Altaf Qadri

At least 20 people died when a boat packed with labourers capsized on the Yamuna river in northern India on Thursday.

"It appears the boat was crowded beyond its capacity," said Dharam Pal Singh, a magistrate in the Baghpat district in Uttar Pradesh state where the tragedy occurred.

"The incident happened early morning. It was a privately hired boat and was carrying some 50-55 people."

Twenty bodies have been recovered, he said.

Senior police officer Ram Kumar estimated the number of passengers aboard the boat at more than 60, and said at least 10 people swam to safety while about 30 passengers were missing. 

Angry residents protested on the streets in Baghpat, accusing the administration of not providing help to the victims quickly enough.

"They used dead bodies to block roads. Police are on the spot and a probe has been ordered," said Prashant Kumar, another local police officer.

The Press Trust of India news agency said the boat capsized mid-stream and most of the victims were women.

The Uttar Pradesh government, run by the  Bharatiya Janata Party, announced compensation of 200,000 rupees (Dh11,460) for each victim's family.

Boat accidents are common in India, mainly because of overcrowding, poor maintenance and lax safety on ferries.

Nineteen people died in January when a boat carrying revellers from a kite festival capsized on the Ganges river in eastern India.