Gandabal Boat Tragedy: Massive search and rescue efforts continue

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Massive search efforts continue in Gandabal
Search efforts continue in Gandabal after boat capsize tragedy | Photo Credit: Reshi Irshad

SRINAGAR — The joint rescue operation for the missing bodies, including those of a father-son duo and another minor boy, entered its second day on Wednesday in the aftermath of the tragic boat capsize incident in Gandabal area of Batwara on Tuesday.

Teams from SDRF, NDRF, Indian Army’s MARCOS, Fire and Emergency, along with other officials, are intensifying efforts to locate and retrieve the bodies.

According to the news agency KNO, the Lieutenant Governor-led administration provided financial assistance to the families of the deceased and those who sustained injuries in the incident.

Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Vijay Kumar Bidhuri and Deputy Commissioner (DC) Srinagar, Dr Bilal Mohi-Ud-Din Bhat, visited the Gandbal area on Wednesday and met with the family members of the deceased.

They expressed heartfelt condolences and solidarity with those affected by the tragic incident. Deeply saddened by the loss of six lives in the boat capsizing, they extended government assistance to the bereaved families.

As a gesture of support, the next of kin of the deceased were provided an ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh each, while Rs 50,000 each was given to the four injured individuals.

Accompanied by Additional Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Syed Ahmad Kataria, SDM East, Murtaza Ahmad, Tehsildar Panthachowk, Muzamil Ahmad, and other officials from the District Administration Srinagar.

The Div Com, on the occasion, said the search and rescue operation continues in the area as efforts are on to locate three missing persons, comprising two children and an adult.

“Today, 14 teams, including those from NDRF, SDRF, ARMY, River Police, and other agencies, were deployed for rescue operations. The operation is scheduled to continue throughout the night and will resume in the morning,” he said.

Bidhuri said Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha is actively monitoring the situation and has announced financial assistance for the families of the deceased and the injured.

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Regarding the bridge construction, the Div Com said, “We have verified the information, and the work is expected to be completed by June of this year.”

Meanwhile, the ongoing rescue operation to trace the bodies of the three missing individuals has been intensified following the boat capsizing incident.

An official said the rescue operation to retrieve the three missing persons, including a father-son duo identified as Showkat Ahmad and his son Hazik Showkat, along with minor boy Farhan Parray, resumed in the first light of the morning after being halted last night at around 11 pm. It continued all day, he said.

The operation continued all day, with the rescue teams from SDRF, NDRF, Indian Army’s MARCOS, Fire and Emergency, and other officials making all-out efforts to retrieve the bodies.

“We have been here in Jhelum of Batwara since around 6 am, continuing our search. Initially, we started from the Batwara area in the morning where the boat capsized. We first scanned the incident spot and soon moved forward to search other areas in the river for the body,” ASI SDRF, Abdul Rashid said.

He said the water flow was very high on Tuesday, however, today it had receded, while no traces of the body were found. “We are hopeful of recovering the bodies,” he said.

Inspector General of Police Kashmir VK Birdi told reporters that the search operation to trace the three missing persons from river Jhelum is underway. “We have alerted all the police stations along river Jhelum to keep watch on bodies,” Birdi said, adding that specialised divers who are searching for the missing persons are focusing on sites where there is a high probability of finding the missing persons.

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The entire Kashmir region plunged into deep shock and grief after a boat ferrying school kids, locals, and a few non-J&K residents capsized at the Gandabal area of Batwara in Srinagar on Tuesday. This resulted in the death of six persons, including a mother, her two children, and the boatman.

Expert swimmer joins rescue efforts in Gandabal

As a result of the incident, experts from southern Kashmir’s Kakapora area of Pulwama district have joined the effort to retrieve the bodies of the missing persons.

While the rescue operation was underway, Abdul Salaam, a 64-year-old expert swimmer from Kakapora area of Pulwama, joined the efforts. “Salaam has retrieved many human bodies from the river Jhelum at different spots. He is an expert in rescue operations and brings hope for the retrieval of the body,” said a local present at Gandabal.

“This is a tragedy for all of us, as I have not witnessed such a devastating incident before. The incident I remember is the one at Wular river in 2006, where 22 people – 21 of whom were children – died after a boat carrying them capsized in the lake,” said Abdul Salam.

“Until now, I have saved 16 people and retrieved about 46 bodies from the water near different localities. As per my assumption, the body might have reached ‘Chattabal Veer.’ I will do my best and I will scan the shores close to Gandabal, as there is a chance the body settled down near Gandabal,” said Salam.

“He has no tools, but it is just Almighty’s blessings on him, as he starts with the name of Allah, and He helps. We are hopeful that Salam might retrieve the body, or anyone else from the rescue teams may retrieve the body,” said a local from the area.

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