Visakhapatnam/ Rajahmundry: A Kakinada-based company Balaji Marines has been awarded the contract by the Andhra Pradesh government to retrieve the private tourist boat Royal Vasishta Punnami that capsized in the River Godavari near Kachuluru village under Devipatnam mandal in East Godavari district on September 15.

It may be recalled that a boat carrying 77 persons, including some crew members to Papikondalu, capsized in the river allegedly after it was caught in a whirlpool. The accident resulted in the death of 51 persons.

East Godavari district collector D. Muralidhar Reddy said, “Of the 77 persons on board, 26 persons were saved, 36 bodies retrieved and 15 are missing.”

Though more than 10 organisations submitted proposal to retrieve the ill-fated boat, a committee comprising of officials from the Indian Navy, port, fisheries, irrigation, tourism and from the JNTU chosen Balaji Marines for the salvage operations considering its previous track record, said Mr Muralidhar Reddy.

As per the committee suggestion, the AP government has sanctioned Rs 22.7 lakh for the salvage operations and the government will release the amount to Balaji Marines in a phased manner.

 Superintendent of police, East Godavari, Adnan Nayeem Asmi said that the 15 missing bodies might be trapped in the sunken boat. It is difficult to know until and unless we retrieve the ill-fated boat. The boat is located at a depth of 210 feet in the river near Kachuluru village.

Sources said that Balaji Marines may use modern techniques to retrieve the boat. The committee which was formed by the AP government have begun investigations into the boat tragedy. It will submit a report by October. The committee will also suggest the government on steps to be taken to prevent such incidents in future and measures to be taken to regulate the plying of illegal boats in the Godavari.

The East Godavari district administration has given instructions to the Tunnuru village secretary of Devipatnam mandal, to hand over death certificates to the kin of the victims. The NDRF and SDRF teams would continue their search operation to trace the remaining bodies.

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