BOAT CAPSIZE: Tuesday Tragedy Traumatizes Valley as Jhelum swallows many, including kids

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Six rescued; exact numbers of dead and missing still not known; six deaths, three missing confirmed


Srinagar, April 16: In a tragic boat capsize incident, that shocked the entire Kashmir Valley, at least six persons including a woman and her two minor kids died while several others, including a father and his child, are reported missing.

As the people of the Valley were gearing up for their day-long routine on Tuesday morning, after a wet spell, the tragic news popped up on everyone’s mobile phone screen.

“A ferryboat transporting schoolchildren and local residents capsized in river Jhelum near Sonwar in Srinagar. The incident, according to eyewitnesses, occurred around 8:05 this morning after the boat’s rope broke unexpectedly, causing the vessel with more than a dozen people, including young students, to collide with a concrete pillar of an under-construction bridge”.

Reports suggest that a boat carrying mostly school children capsized in the Jhelum river on the outskirts of the city on Tuesday, leaving six people dead, while three others are believed to be missing.

The incident took place around 8 am in Gandbal Nowgam area here and six people were pulled out of the river.

While the exact number of people on the boat was not clear, Srinagar’s Deputy Commissioner, Bilal Mohi-ud-Din Bhat, confirmed that six people have died and their bodies have been retrieved.

“Six people have unfortunately died, while we have rescued six others — out of which three are under treatment but stable. The other three are at home,” Bhat told reporters.

“The unfortunate incident occurred between 7:45 am and 8 am. We are ascertaining how many people were travelling in the boat, but the information we have so far is that 15 people were on it, including seven minors,” he said, adding that the rescue operations were on.

However, locals believe that the boat capsized this morning after its rope broke unexpectedly, causing the vessel “with around 26 people onboard” to collide with a concrete pillar of an under-construction bridge.

Six people were successfully retrieved from the river and are reported to be in a stable condition; the other six individuals who lost their lives in the tragic incident included a woman and her two minor sons.

Immediately after the incident, the administration mobilized the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the police, and the Indian Army in a rescue mission.

Those lost their lives in the incident have been identified as Firdousa, wife of Fayaz Ahmad Malik of Shivpora, and her two sons — Tanveer Fayaz and Mudasir Fayaz; Shabir Ahmad Bhat, son of Bashir Ahmad Bhat; Gulzar Ahmad Dar, son of Mohammad Jamal Dar; and Razia, daughter of Ghulam Mohammad Gojree, all residents of Gandbal.

Those who are still missing have been identified as Farhan Waseem Parray, son of Imtiyaz Ahmad Parray; Hazik Showkat, son of Showkat Ahmad; Showkat Ahmad Sheikh, son of Abdul Gani Sheikh, all residents of Gandbal.

Those rescued are Masrat Begum, wife of Waseem Ahmad Parray; Irshada Bilal, wife of Bilal Ahmad Zargar and their daughters — Aisha Bilal and Insha Bilal;  Ghulam Nabi Khan; Mehrajdin Dar and Noor Mohammad, sons of Abdul Khaliq, Humaira daughter of Shabir Ahmad Sheikh; Mohamad Rafiq Bhat, son of Mohammad Yusuf Bhat; and Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh, son of Ghulam Qadir Sheikh, all residents of Gandbal.

Asked if the administration had warned the people in view of an increase in the water levels of various rivers and streams in the valley, Deputy Commissioner Bhat said the authorities had issued an alert on Monday asking people living near the embankments of the rivers to remain cautious.

“We issued an alert yesterday. I was touring the city till around midnight. The danger level of Jhelum in Ram Munshibagh (in Srinagar) is 18 feet. When the level crosses 10 feet, we issue an initial alert asking people living near the banks to remain cautious. (However), it was flowing below the danger level and the rain had also stopped around 10 pm last night,” he added.

In response to a question whether the boat was overloaded, the Deputy Commissioner said, “We are looking into it”.

Senior officials from police and civil administration, including Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Deputy Commissioner Srinagar and Senior Superintendent of Police Srinagar, were at the spot at Gandbal Batwara monitoring rescue operations.

Meanwhile, while the boat capsize tragedy Tuesday morning has left six people dead, at least three others, including a father-son duo are believed to be missing.

Along the riverbanks, crowds of people are watching and waiting anxiously for updates on their missing loved ones, praying for divine intervention.

While there is no exact figure of those missing in the tragedy, locals believe that at least three persons are still missing.

They say that a mason Showkat Ahmad Sheikh was accompanying his son Hazik Showkat to school when the tragedy happened. One of his relatives said the duo would cross the river daily. The father-son duo of Ganzabal is reported to be missing.

Another missing person is the seven-year-old Farhan Waseem Parrey, who was accompanied by his mother Masarat Waseem when the tragedy struck. While Masarat was rescued, Farhan, also a resident of Gandabal, remains missing.

As per officials, around eight rescue boats of police, Marcos, Army, and SDRF are conducting the rescue (now search) operation. After several hours, there was no trace of those missing, while officials said that a few school bags were found around 5 km downstream near Chattabal Weir.

Thousands attend the Jinaza of those who died as the boat, they were boarding, capsized in Sonawar area of Srinagar. PHOTO: Farooq Javed

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