At least 19 people have been feared dead when a ferry carrying over 38 tourists capsized in the Krishna River near Ibrahimpatnam, Andhra Pradesh on Sunday evening.  As of last evening the swimmers were able to rescue only 15 people and three bodies were fished out this morning. As it was close to sunset, darkness soon hampered rescue operations.

The ferry was traveling from Bhavani Island to Pavitra Sangamam. Bhavani Island is a popular tourist spot in Andhra. It overturned at a spot where harathi was being done and this being the last day of the Karthika masam there was extra rush.

It is suspected that the boat driver was new on the route and was unaware of the sedimentation in the river and had apparently crashed the boat into a mound of silt which led to the boat capsizing. Thhe people on board the upper deck of the boat fell into the waters while those below were trapped beneath the boat.

The boat was being operated by Simple Water Sports, a private firm. The boat is suspected to be overloaded at the time of accident but the firm denies the accusation. Vijayawada Police Commissioner Gautam Sawang said the private boat operator did not have a valid licence. "There were no life jackets for passengers either.We have registered a criminal case against the operator and will take stern action," Sawang told reporters last night. The police also launched a hunt for the missing driver of the boat.  

Two teams each comprising 30 NDRF personnel, a 45-member team of the State Disaster Rescue Force (SDRF) and 60 members of the Disaster Response and Fire Services Department have been roped into the rescue operation.

Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, Deputy Chief Minister (Home) N China Rajappa, Opposition leader Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, state BJP president K Hari Babu and others yesterday expressed grief over the incident. China Rajappa had also announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh each to the kin of the deceased. 

This is the second boat accident the state is witnessing this year as in April, 13 members of a family died after their boat capsized in the Erratimma Raju lake in Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur district. The boat had the capacity to carry 17 people only but had been overcrowded.