Violence erupts after boat capsizes in Bengal

Kolkata: At least five people went missing after a boat capsized in the Hooghly river in West Bengal's Burdwan district, and alleging delay in rescue operations angry people later ran riot, police said on Sunday. Initially, police said 20 people were missing. They were on board the overladen boat when the accident happened on Saturday night. Later, Burdwan Superintendent of Police Gaurav Sharma said only five people are missing. Contradicting that figure, the local people, however, claimed that the number of the missing was closer to 50. "The boat had over 100 passengers, including many children. The boat capsized around 11 in the night but the police came to the spot only in the morning. Scores of people are missing," said a man. Police superintendent Gaurav Sharma said divers have been pressed into service and rescue and search operation is continuing. The overladen boat was on its way from Kalna Ghat in Burdwan to Shantipur in Nadia district on Saturday night when it capsized in Hooghly river, which is a distributary of the Ganga river in West Bengal. Angered by what they saw as delay on the part of the administration in starting rescue operations, the local people set on fire several boats in Shantipur and Kalna ghats. The policemen who came for search and rescue operations were pelted with stones at the Shantipur Ghat, prompting them to fire teargas shells to disperse the violent protestors. Denying that the delay was intentional, a police officer said they were waiting for the arrival of personnel from the disaster management group to begin the search operations. West Bengal Minister and Trinamool Congress legislator Swapan Debnath denied the charge of delay in rescue operations. "Rescue operation began as soon as the administration got the news of the accident. Already several people have been rescued. At the behest of their political masters, certain people are making false accusations," said Debnath, who visited the accident site.