Seven persons were declared missing on Sunday morning as authorities in Andhra Pradesh resumed their search and rescue operations following a boat capsize on Saturdayevening.
The incident occurred near Pasuvullanka in I. Polavaram Mandal (block) in East Godavari district and the boat, with around 30 to 40 people on board, capsized after hitting a pillar of an under-construction bridge.
Local people, including fishermen, rescued around 20 people while the search was on for others missing.
While some media reports claimed that the boat did not have a license, the police have refuted the claim.
Speaking to TNM, Vishal Gummi, Superintendent of Police, East Godavari, said, "The boat was completely licensed and as of now, that is not an issue. It is a case of an accident, as the driver rammed into a pillar of an under-construction bridge."
When asked if it was negligence on part of the driver, which led to the accident, the senior police official said, "It is tough to say. As of now, we are focusing on rescue operations and we have taken the driver into custody and have registered a case. We will launch a detailed investigation soon to find out how it happened."
The Superintendent also said that heavy rains were hampering the rescue operations.
"The rains are heavy and the current is strong, so the rescue operations are getting difficult," he said.
The boat was on its way from Talarivari Palem to Pasuvullanka. Shekar Reddy, Sub-Inspector, I. Polavaram, Andhra Pradesh told TNM that one woman and six teenage girls were still missing.
He also said that a 'missing girl or woman case' has been registered, but they will file a formal FIR with sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) once the rescue operations are completed.
"The driver is already in our custody. Our priority is the rescue operation," he said.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and Fire Service Department officials, who were the first to reach to the spot, continue to be assisted by local authorities and are working to find the missing people.
After multiple boat accidents this year, Andhra Chief Secretary Dinesh Kumar in May this year, said that the state was considering forming an inland water transport regulatory authority which will regulate all forms of water transportation in all water bodies under the stateâ€™s jurisdiction.
The board is expected to be constituted chiefly with officials of the Andhra Pradesh Department of Ports, Water Resources, Panchayat Raj Department and the Police, along with authorities of other departments.
The Chief Secretary said that accident-prone areas should be monitored by local authorities and said that Police Superintendents and Collectors would be given orders in this regard.
He also asked officials to ensure that boats were taking safety measures including making life jackets available to all. The boats must also display all documents, licenses, registration details and fitness certificates.
A meeting was held in this regard at the Chief Secretaryâ€™s chambers in the Interim Government Complex in Velagapudi.