Andhra Pradesh boat tragedy: Two bodies recovered, more than 20 missing

Andhra boat search Rescue personnel on rafts searching the Godavari river for survivors of the boat tragedy | K.K.Productions via AP

Two bodies have been recovered so far from a boat that sank in the Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh's East Godavari district on Tuesday even as a rescue operation is under way, police said on Wednesday.

As the boat got stuck in the sand of the riverbed at least 40 feet below the surface, and with all its doors and windows closed, extricating the bodies trapped inside is proving cumbersome, a senior official involved in the rescue operation said.

Besides personnel of the Indian Navy, personnel from the National Disaster Response Force, State Disaster Response Force, Fire Services, revenue and police departments were carrying out the search and rescue operation as over 30 passengers travelling in the boat were said to be missing.

However, there was no clarity on the exact number of people missing, with conflicting claims made by government authorities.

At least 13 persons swam to safety on Tuesday after the boat capsized because of strong winds, West Godavari Superintendent of Police Ravi Prakash said.

"As per the information we gathered from the witnesses, more than 30 persons are still missing," he told TV channels.

The boat, with about 40 passengers, was on its way to Rajamahendravaram from Devipatnam when tragedy struck near Manturu village, a release said, quoting officials as having told Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.

Of them, 20 passengers got off at Manturu village while the boat continued its onward journey to Rajamahendravaram with the remaining passengers, the release issued by the Information and Public Relations Department commissioner said.

The passengers belonged to Kondamodalu, Kachluru and Talluru villages.

Helicopters from Indian Navy's Eastern Naval Command in Visakhapatnam, carrying expert divers, reached Devipatnam on Wednesday morning and began an aerial survey to trace the boat.

They finally located the boat after more than five hours of search but pulling it out proved to be a daunting task, officials involved in the rescue operation said.

Divers then got into the act to extricate the bodies of the passengers by breaking open the glass windows.

They could initially retrieve only two bodies, who were identified as villagers of Kondamodalu.