Harni Lake tragedy: overloaded boat, lack of life jackets, no safety instructions

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Harni Lake tragedy: overloaded boat, lack of life jackets, no safety instructions

| Updated: January 19, 2024 13:18

In a tragedy of epic proportions, 12 children and two teachers lost their lives after a boat capsized in Harni Lake, near Motnath temple in Vadodara, on Thursday night.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and a 60-member Vadodara Fire and Emergency Services (VFES) team managed to rescue 13 people.

The heart-wrenching incident happened at 4:45 pm at a picnic hosted by New Sunrise School in the Waghodia neighbourhood of Vadodara. The boat, peddled by the owner of a Sev-Usal stall, had a capacity of 16 but still had 27 people on it on the fatal day.

Thirteen people—just 10 of whom had received life jackets—were saved. They were admitted to Janvi Multispeciality Hospital and SSG Hospital, a report in Ahmedabad Mirror said.

Eighty-two children had gone for the picnic.

Education Minister Kuber Dindor told the tabloid, “At least life jackets should have been worn by the students. I have come to know that some students did not have life jackets on. We will get a fact-based report and then take action as per policy rules.”

According to reports, at least five people were booked under IPC sections 304 (culpable homicide), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 114 (abettor by being absent), 337 (causing hurt by endangering life and safety) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by endangerment), said DCP Panna Momaiya. 

The police are yet to locate the main contractor, Paresh Shah.

MoS Home Harsh Sanghavi said in a press conference, “To ensure an in-depth investigation, we want to nab all the accused. We have filed an FIR and also handed over an inquiry to the DM. This is a terrible tragedy. We believe that the boat organisers are clearly responsible because more persons than the capacity were seated in the boat. Only 10 children got life jackets and they were rescued while others lost their lives.”

RR Vyas, the district education officer of Vadodara, who visited the site to investigate the incident, told the paper, “A thorough investigation will take place, and actions will be taken based on the findings.”

Jaideep Gadhavi, Sub Fire Officer at Vadodara Fire and Emergency Services, was quoted as saying by ANI, “We received information that a boat has capsized in the Harni Motnath Lake. We rescued 20 people, of whom 14 died, including two teachers. Two teams of Vadodara Fire Service are in standby mode at the incident spot.”

Gadhavi added that eight rescue teams were summoned after a high alert. She said, “Eight teams of the Vadodara Rescue Team immediately reached the spot. The search operation is underway with the help of an underwater camera. Efforts are being made to identify some children based on their belongings. At 10 am we will file the missing report after the search is over…”

Shilpa Rana, one of the teachers in the school, told the daily, “We got out of the lake with Gujarati medium students in two boats while in one boat the teacher was coming back to the shores with English Medium Students.”

PM Narendra Modi and CM Bhupendra Patel condoled the loss of lives. The Prime Minister announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) to the deceased’s next of kin.

The injured would be given Rs 50,000, The Business Standard reported. Additionally, the Gujarat government announced Rs 4 Lakhs each for the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured.

The episode brought back haunting memories of the catastrophe in Sursagar Lake in Vadodara in 1993 when a boat carrying 38 people capsized. 

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