Eighteen people drowned and 45-50 others were missing when an overcrowded country boat, carrying over 100 people, capsized in the Bagmati river near Fultora ghat on Monday evening, the superintendent of police of Khagaria district, Indranand Mishra said.
The passengers were returning to their villages after attending a fair on the occasion of Vijaya Dashami. National Disaster Response Force are engaged in rescue operations since Monday evening and recovered 18 bodies, mostly of minors and women, Mishra said.
While five bodies were recovered on Monday evening, 13 others were found on Tuesday morning, Mishra said. 25 persons swam to safety. In another mishap, eight persons died when their boat sank in Kamala Balan river in Darbhanga district on Monday evening.
All bodies were recovered. The boat, carrying 17 people, overturned during immersion of an idol of Goddess Durga. Nine persons swam to safety. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced an ex-gratia of Rs 1.50 lakh to the families of each of the deceased.
Kumar asked the Khagaria district authorities to further intensify the rescue operations with the help of local fishermen. Expressing shock at the tragedy, he directed the state authorities to deploy officials to prevent overcrowding of boats.
Meanwhile, chief opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal-Lok Janshakti Party front has criticised the state government for its alleged failure to stop recurrence of boat mishaps.
"We demand that the state government pay an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh to dependents of each of the deceased, besides a government job to an eligible member of the bereaved families," RJD spokesman Shakeel Ahmed Khan said.
He also demanded that the state government should come out with details of those who met a watery grave in boat mishaps during the past four years.
"The government should also specify the actions taken for preventing overcrowding of boats," Khan said.