Visakhapatnam : The heavy rains coupled with strong underwater current on Thursday hampered search and rescue operations in tracing the missing persons who drowned after their boat capsized in the river Godavari, near Kacchulu under Devipatnam in East Godavari district, on last Sunday. Officials were also unable to retrieve the ill-fated private tourist boat, Royal Vasishta.

Tourism Minister, M Srinivasa Rao on Thursday said that search and rescue operations have proved futile as the teams are yet to trace any missing persons due to the bad weather and strong current. The ill-fated boat was located lying at a depth of around 66 meters (210 feet) on the river bed. However, rescues teams found it difficult to carry out operations to retrieve the boat due to the turbulent waters, Srinivasa Rao added.

As of now, 34 bodies have been recovered from the river and postmortem has been conducted for all the retrieved bodies. Another 13 persons are yet to be found while 26 persons were rescued. With the high inflow of water and high levels of sediment in the Godavari, lifting the boat from the depths of the river will be a difficult task.

Using the flow of the current, the teams from the Indian Navy, NDRF and SDRF are chalking out plans to move the boat, due to difficulties in using heavy cranes at the spot.

Sources said that one more team from Mumbai will join in the operation to retrieve the ill-fated boat from the waters.

The Vizag city police on Thursday arrested the owner of the ‘Royal Vasishta’ boat, Kodigudla Venkataramana, a native of Saripalle under Pendurthi police stations limits in Vizag city. He is known to have a criminal background and is said to be involved in many cases related to the land mafia between 2009 and 2017. He reportedly had a hand in forging documents pertaining to a 400 square plot in Survey No. 148/15 in Saripalle village and has sold the land twice. The victims filed a cheating case No. 308/2017 in Pendurthi police station and the case is pending in court.

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