UP: A major tragedy was averted on Saturday as all 34 passengers from Andhra Pradesh on-board a damaged boat, which capsized in the Ganga at Dashashwamedh Ghat here, were rescued, police said.

While the boatman ferrying the tourists fled soon after the boat, which was in a bad shape and was overloaded, developed a hole and started sinking, other boatmen and local swimmers present there turned saviours and rescued all the passengers, they added.

Two passengers identified as P Adinarayan (56) and his wife P Vijaya, who complained of breathlessness after they were rescued, were taken to divisional hospital in Kabir Chaura where they were stated to be out of danger, said assistant commissioner of police (ACP) Dashashwamedh Ghat, Varanasi, Avdhesh K Pandey. He further said the boatman ferrying the passengers was absconding and the police were trying to trace him.

“No casualties have been reported in the incident which happened when the passengers from the damaged boat were being shifted to another boat. On investigating,

it was found that the boat was damaged,” Pandey added.

“The police have registered an FIR under sections 282 and 280 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for knowingly or negligently posing threat to the life of the tourists by ferrying them by water in an overloaded boat and for mishandling the boat,” the ACP said.

The incident was reported at around 7:30am when a group of tourists from Andhra Pradesh hired a boat from Dashashwamedh Ghat to perform some rituals in the Ganga, police said.

“As the boat reached in the middle of the river, it somehow got damaged after which water started seeping in. While the tourists were being shifted to another boat, the boat turned upside down,” said Shambhu Majhi, a boatman who was among the first ones to launch the rescue operation.

Other boatmen too dived into the water and saved all the tourists. “I am thankful to the boatmen who saved me. The water was deep and we had lost all our hope,” said one of the rescued passengers Suman Kumar.

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