India suspends search after boat tragedy, 25 dead

AP News
Posted: Oct 31, 2010 11:42 AM
India suspends search after boat tragedy, 25 dead

The Indian navy, coast guard and police suspended their search Sunday night for dozens missing after a boat crowded with Muslim pilgrims capsized near the Bay of Bengal, killing at least 25, police said.

The search will resume at daylight Monday with helicopters and divers scouring the wide mouth of the Hooghly River, Parganas district police chief Laxmi Narayan Meena said.

More than 100 people were packed onto the 60-capacity motorized boat when it was toppled by a wave from a passing ship Saturday afternoon in the wide river estuary, West Bengal's deputy police director Surajit Kar Purkayastha said.

Local boatmen rescued 50 people and recovered 18 bodies, including three young girls, before suspending Saturday's search due to darkness. Another seven bodies were found Sunday, Meena said.

At least 30 people have been hospitalized.

It was unclear exactly how many people had been on board as no passenger count was taken. Some of the survivors told rescue officials that around 100 people could still be missing, police said.

The pilgrims had been returning to Kakdwip town aboard the boat "Ma Durga" after offering prayers at the Hijli shrine in East Midnapur. The accident occurred near Ghoramara island, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) south of the state capital, Calcutta.

This is the second major boat tragedy in little more than two months in the Bay of Bengal.

In August, about 20 people died when an overcrowded village transport boat capsized in a small river in the Sunderbans wildlife reserve.