More than one-hundred people are feared to have died in a ferry that sank during a heavy storm in the northeastern Indian state of Assam.
The ship was carrying more than 300 passengers on the Brahmaputra river in the remote Dhubri district. Dozens of people were either rescued or pulled safely ashore, while scores remain missing.
It was one of the worst ferry disasters in recent Indian history.
The vessel reportedly capsized and broke apart into two segments.
I could see people being swept away as the river current was very strong, a witness named Rahul Karmakar, told Agence France Presse news agency.
A police officer told Reuters that the ferry had no lifeboats nor life-jackets and was so crowded that some passengers sat on the roof.
Tarun Gogoi, Assam’s Chief Minister warned that continued
inclement weather is hurting rescue efforts in the area.
Dhubri is 215 miles west of Guwahati, Assam’s largest city.
Al Jazeera correspondent Prerna Suri, based in New Delhi, explained that due to the lack of alternative transportation options in remote area: what happens usually, such as in this case, operators tend to fill passengers up to capacity, much more than capacity. The sheer size of the number of passengers, combined with the hostile weather conditions in that area, resulted literally in that boat splitting up into two.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement that he was shocked and grieved by the incident and added he has given instructions for all possible assistance to the government of Assam in relief operations.”
Such tragedies are commonplace on the Indian subcontinent due to overcrowded vessels and poor safety regulations.
Last October, at least 79 Muslim pilgrims died when a overcrowded boat sank in West Bengal. In March 2012, 138 people died when an overloaded ferry sank in the neighboring country of Bangladesh.