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At least 12 people have drowned and dozens of others are missing after a sightseeing boat capsized in Godavari River near Devipatnam in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district on Sunday, September 15, rescue officials said.

The Royal Vasishta vessel was carrying 61 people – 50 passengers and 11 crew members, all of them Indian nationals – when it capsized on the Godavari River on Sunday (September 15), Andhra Pradesh state’s Home Minister Mekathoti Sucharita said.

A search operation was underway, with rescue teams including divers and a helicopter scouring the river to find the missing people, a senior police official said.

Twenty-four people have been rescued so far, while 25 others are missing, Sucharita said.

Sucharita said tour boats had been barred from operating on the route following the recent flooding of the river and it was not clear how the boat that capsized had managed to take out the tourists.

“Stern action will be taken against the culprits,” she told the Associated Press news agency.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy said he is reviewing the situation. He announced ₹10 lakh as ex gratia for the victims’ relatives and also ordered cancellation of licences of all boats operating in the river.

According to an official release from the chief minister’s office, the bodies of the deceased passengers were shifted to Rajahmundry hospital for post-mortem.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, in a tweet said he was “extremely pained” by the incident. 

“Extremely pained by the capsizing of a boat in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. Rescue operations are currently underway at the site of the tragedy,” he tweeted.

Home minister Amit Shah also expressed grief over the “unfortunate” incident. “The loss of lives due to capsizing of a boat in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh is very unfortunate. I am deeply pained. My thoughts are with families of those who have lost their loved ones. May God give the bereaved families strength to withstand this tragic loss,” Shah said in a tweet.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that he hoped that those missing were safe. “I’m sorry to hear about the boat accident in the Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh. My deepest condolences to the families of those who have perished in this tragedy. I pray that all those reported missing will soon be accounted for and that they are safe,” he said on Twitter.

Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao also announced an ex gratia of ₹5 lakh to each of kin of victims from the state. At least 36 passengers on the boat were from Telangana, according to initial reports.

Telugu Desam Party president and former AP chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and Jana Sena Party chief Pawan Kalyan also expressed shock over the tragedy.

Also Read: “Can’t harass people”: Telangana CM on new Traffic rule violation fines

Apart from tourists, residents in the area depend on boats and ferries to travel between villages on the banks of the Godavari.

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