Summary of Hirakud Incident

 

Death toll in Hirakud boat tragedy rises to 28

The death toll in the Hirakud Dam boat tragedy in Sambalpur district rose to 28 on Monday with the recovery of 17 more bodies, even as rescue operations continued for the second day to trace another five persons.

“Personnel of the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and fire brigade fished out 11 bodies by the Sunday evening, while 17 more were recovered on Monday,” said Odisha special relief commissioner PK Mohapatra.

Besides expert scuba divers, personnel of ODRAF, fire brigade, police and local divers were also engaged in rescue and search operations in the vast reservoir as the place of accident was very deep.

The state government also pressed a helicopter in the search operation.

The state government has ordered an administrative inquiry by Sambalpur revenue divisional commissioner into the incident to probe if the boat had safety measures and license to operate.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who is in New Delhi, has asked revenue and disaster minister SDN Patro and finance minister Prasanna Acharya to rush to Sambalpur to oversee the rescue operations.

“Our first priority is to rescue the people and the entire government machinery has been working at that,” Patro said.

The state government has announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs. 1.5 lakh for the family members of the victims and free treatment for the survivors.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who is on a two-day visit to the state, has put his scheduled meeting with party workers on hold and visited the spot to meet grieving families.

The issue was raised in the state assembly with leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh seeking a statement from the government.

The boat had capsized on Sunday with at least 100 people from the Lion’s Club of Sambalpur, Hirakud and Bargarh, who were returning from the other side of the Hirakud reservoir after a picnic.

The boat was flooded with water after developing a snag in its motor pump in the reservoir, about 340 km west of Bhubaneswar. Eyewitnesses said the passengers tried to drain the water from the boat but failed.

Some passengers jumped out of the boat and stay afloat till local fishermen rushed to save them. Women and children were the major casualty of the tragedy.

22 Dead, 9 Missing as Boat Capsizes in Hirakud Reservoir

At least 22 people died and 9 others were reportedly missing after a country boat carrying picnickers from Sambalpur town capsized due to overloading in Hirakud Dam Reservoir (HDR) here on Sunday afternoon.

The deceased have been identified as Anita Singh (40), Seema Agrawal (38), Usha Agrawal (35), Santosh Kumari (50), Suchismita Jena (30), Harish Agrawal (10), Paviz Sharma (38), Purba Sharma (18) and Tania Sharma (15). Some of the bodies are yet to be identified.

Reports said that members of Lions Club, Sambalpur had gone for picnic to Marang Dungri under Tilia Gram Panchayat in Lakhanpur block of Jharsuguda district after crossing the HDR in a motor fitted county boat on Sunday morning. They boarded the boat at Sonutikra Ghat, about 14 kilometers from Sambalpur town under Sason police limits.

The incident occurred when at least 70 members of Lions Club besides 50 regular passengers along with about 30 motorcycles were returning back to Sonutikra Ghat after enjoying the picnic at Marang Dungri. The picnickers boarded the boat at around 4.15 PM and after moving about 15 minutes, water started gushing into the boat from its base. The boat was stopped due to some technical snag and started capsizing in the middle of the HDR.

Rescue teams along with fire brigade and police personnel have rushed to the spot. About 80 persons have been rescued so far. ODRAF team has also reached the spot for the rescue operation. Sambalpur Sadar Sub Collector Surendra Panda had confirmed death of 11 persons and said that still at least 20 persons were missing.

Chief Minster Naveen Patnaik expressed his grief over the tragic incident and asked the SRC and Sambalpur District Collector to expedite the rescue operation.

Odisha law minister to meet lawyers on stir today

A solution to lawyers’ agitation in western Odisha seemed imminent on Saturday after law minister Maheswar Mohanty on Friday invited them for a discussion. The agitating lawyers are demanding a high court bench in western parts of the state.

The minister in a letter requested the Central Action Committee (CAC), spearheading the protest, to have a talk at 5 pm at secretariat on February 9, convener of the CAC Ashok Dash told the media.

“We convened a meeting on Saturday to discuss the matter. It was unanimously decided that we would take part in the discussion. Till then, we will stage a 24-hour relay hunger strike,” Dash said.

Dash has been on an indefinite hunger strike in front of Sambalpur RDC office since Wednesday along with four other senior members of the CAC. A 13-member team will go to Bhubaneswar on Sunday morning to meet the minister, he said.

“Our future course of action will be decided only on Monday after our delegation comes back from Bhubaneswar,” senior lawyer Pradeep Bohidar said.

Common men faced difficulties as even ATM counters of several banks remained closed owing to the agitation. Both RDC (northern division) Pramod Meherda and collector (Sambalpur) Balawant Singh have already requested the lawyers to call off the agitation in the interest of public.

Air Pollution Rising in Jharsuguda

Increasing air pollution in the coal-rich district has led to increasing threat of accidents. The coal dust hinders the drivers’ vision leading to accidents. District police report stated that 249 accidents cases were reported in 2013. While 98 persons died, 133 were seriously injured.

Jharsuguda has been placed at the eighth position among critically polluted districts of India. According to a survey, the district also tops in the State in spreading pollution. The measures taken by the district administration have failed to solve the problem.

Brajrajnagar MLA Anup Sai along with his supporters staged a protest on NH-49 on Thursday, demanding measures to check pollution levels. The stir was called off after Sub-Collector assured of taking corrective measures.