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Despite Warning by Boatmen, How 11 People Aboard 'Wooden Planks' Drowned in Bhopal Lake

A Bhopal boatman claimed that the boat was basically two planks of wood joined together with tin and other material and nearly 22 people were using it to go into the lake for immersions.

Vivek Trivedi | News18

Updated:September 14, 2019, 8:40 AM IST
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Despite Warning by Boatmen, How 11 People Aboard 'Wooden Planks' Drowned in Bhopal Lake
Rescue personnel pull out the boat that capsized in the Lower Lake in Bhopal on Friday. (PTI)

Bhopal: When 11 people died in Bhopal during Ganesh immersion, it drew reaction from the entire country, including PM Modi. But as a saying goes, there's always something positive even in the face of tragedy, this accident too had a side that one can be grateful about.

Of the 11 deceased, there were at least six who were saved after two boatman, who were passing by and spotted the people drowning, jumped into the lake. The situation seemed grave as many of the people aboard the heavily-crowded boat did not know to swim.

Speaking to News18 on Friday, Nitin Batham, a young boatman, claimed that the boat people were travelling on was basically two planks of wood joined together with tin and other material and nearly 22 people were using it to go into the lake and immerse idols.

The incident, however, happened at around 20 feet from the lakeside but the victims panicked and no help was available on the banks, leading to death of 11. Local residents claimed that an ambulance was stationed there till 3am but had left. The administration claimed two divers were posted at the lake but residents and survivors claimed there was no diver there to help them.

According to information that emerged on Friday, around 19 people, including two boatmen, were aboard the fateful boat. The 11 had drowned, while the boatmen had swum to safety and six others were saved by Nitin, who claimed that if more help was around, all could have been saved.

Nitin said that the large idol was placed at one side of the boat and as the it was pushed into water, the boat could not suffer the jolt and overturned.

Onlookers claimed that five more people were there on the spot last night and were asked by the boatmen to sit on the boat to strike a balance against the heavy idol but seeing the boat crowded, they declined and eventually were saved from the mishap.

The boatmen, Akash Batham and Changu Batham, were arrested by police on Friday noon and were booked under Section 304 A of IPC (causing death by negligence) on the complaint of one of the family members of the deceased.

Sources claimed that the tableau organisers seemed doomed as they were stopped by police in their area and the cops seeing the large size of the idol had advised them to go to Hathaikheda dam for safe immersion but the youths still went to Khatlapura ghat.

It was also claimed that the statue was over 21-feet and still it was allowed to be immersed at lower lake, ill-equipped to deal with eventualities.

The spot — Khatlapura ghat — was also in the news for all wrong reasons when five men had drowned in the lake after the boat they were moving on along with four others had capsized in March 2016.

(Inputs from Ranjana Dubey)

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