At least 21 persons died today when the tourist boat carrying them capsized in the Bay of Bengal near here in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, official sources said.
The boat carrying 45 people — tourists from Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu and Mumbai, and crew members — sank on its way from Ross Island to North Bay.
The South Andaman district administration confirmed 21 deaths and said 13 people were rescued.
Civil administration and defence establishments like the Coast Guard conducted operations to rescue remaining passengers, the sources said.
It was suspected that some persons might have been trapped in the cabin of the boat ‘Aqua Marine’.
Though the boat had the capacity to carry only 25 passengers, it was overcrowded which led to the accident, the sources said.
A group of tourists from Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu who were staying in a resort at Prothrapur in South Andaman district, and another small group of tourists from Mumbai were on the boat, they said.
Lt Governor Lt Gen (Retd) A K Singh announced an exgratia payment of Rs 1 lakh to the family of the deceased.
Singh also spoke to Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and briefed him about the rescue operations he ordered after the accident.
The rescued persons were admitted to G B Pant Hospital in Port Blair where the bodies were also taken for post-mortem, the sources said.
Helpline numbers set up at the district control room are: 1070, 03192-240127/230178/238881 and those in the G B Pant Hospital are: 03192-230629/9933274092. The local helpline number is 102.
Additional District Magistrate of South Andaman has been directed to conduct a magisterial enquiry into the incident.
PM expresses shock
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today expressed shock over the boat tragedy that took place in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and asked all central agencies to assist in rescue operations.
“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed shock over the boat tragedy in the Andamans and has condoled the loss of lives,” a PMO statement said.