Mumbai, (The Hindu): Tragedy marred the inauguration of work on the Chhatrapati Shivaji statue in the Arabian Sea on Wednesday, after a boat carrying political workers to the venue capsized. The boat hit a rock near Prongs lighthouse, roughly 2.6 km from Nariman Point.
One person, identified as Siddesh Pawar, 20, died in the accident, and firemen removed his body from the capsized boat late in the evening with the help of naval divers.
The administration had invited a number of dignitaries, including Maharashtra’s Chief Secretary, senior officials, public representatives and journalists, for the inaugural ceremony, which was cancelled after the accident.
Six boats were arranged to transport people from the Gateway of India. One of them, carrying over 22 people, left at 3.30 p.m. “The boat should not have been taken to the Prongs area because the rocks make it difficult to manoeuvre,” said Yogesh Naik, a reporter with Mumbai Mirror, who was on the boat that capsized.
According to Mr. Naik, when the rescue boat approached, people in the affected boat panicked and tried to scramble on to the other one. “This led to the first boat turning over and one person getting caught under it,” he said.
Balasaheb Jathar, a worker of MLC Vinayak Mete — president of the Shivsmarak committee which is supervising the construction of the statue — was also present on the boat.
He said, “It was my first boat ride. When the accident took place, some of us did not have any life jackets. Since it was my first time on a boat, I cannot tell you whether the speed was high or low.”
According to information from the Coast Guard, Vikrant Ambre, 50, was moved to St. George Hospital, while Ashok Lodha, 53, was allowed to go home after first aid. Ritvick Bhalekar, a reporter from a Marathi news channel said the captain of their boat had no idea how to reach the exact location.
“As a result we were stranded in the sea for over two hours. Though we were given life jackets, the situation was very uncomfortable,” he said.
Chief Secretary D.K. Jain said the Maharashtra Maritime Board will investigate the accident.
MLC Jayant Patil of Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) questioned the safety arrangements and said the accident happened due to lack of planning by the government.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis promised a thorough investigation.
He thanked the Navy and Coast Guard for averting a major tragedy by their timely action.
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