12 children, 2 teachers die of drowning in Harni lake in Vadodara

Vadodara: Two teachers and twelve pupils were dead in Vadodara city’s Harni lake which is managed by Kotia firm as per contract with the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC). The incident took place at around 4.40 pm. The students were on a picnic and they were from class 1 to 6.

According to the city police commissioner 12 children and 2 teachers are dead, while 18 children and 2 teachers are rescued. 30 children were on boat. Of them 12 are dead and 18 are rescued of whom 1 is in SSG hospital, rest of them are with parents. 2 teachers rescued are doing well. The boat had 38 persons against capacity of 14 including 4 people who were riding the boat. The procedure of postmortem is near complete.

The city police commissioner also informed that police complaint is filed under the sections of IPC 304 pertaining to culpable homicide not amounting to murder, IPC 308 for putting human lives ind anger, IPC 114 and IPC 337 and 338 over injuries. Police have formed a Special Investigation Team(SIT) to nab all culprits. So far two persons are arrested.

Earlier, soon after the incident, the fire department of VMC  did a rescue operation at the lake. The children were from New Sunrise School which is located on Waghodia road in Panigate area of the city. The visit was organized by the school. National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) jawans also rushed to fish out the dead bodies from the lake. The injured children were taken to Sayaji hospital and nearby Janvi hospital. The city police commissioner, Mayor, local MLAs, and MP rushed to the lake following the incident.

Meanwhile the opposition party has alleged that all the children were not offered life jackets to wear when they boarded the boat which is a major lapse. The opposition leader also alleged that the boat had a capacity of only 15 persons but 27 to 30 persons were boarded in it. The opposition leader Ami Rawat also alleged that some children could not survive, even when they were wearing life jackets, which showed the life jackets were of substandard quality.

Minister of State for Home, Harsh Sanghavi said only some children were given life jackets and they could be rescued out, but the other children were not given life jackets. He said this was not a mistake but a clear fault on part of the accused. Sanghavi said the government first focused on the rescue, that could save lives. The government then focused on the medical treatment and managed to call an extra number of private doctors. Sanghavi said the government then focused on the investigation into the incident and handed over the probe to the district magistrate.

The deceased teachers are identified as Chhaya Patel and Falguni Surti. One of the two teachers who died was reportedly not even on the boat. When she saw the dead bodies of children coming out from the shore, she collapsed. Sakina Sheikh, Munazza Sheikh, Abisba Kothari, Zakiya Subedar, Vishwa Nizama, Nancy Machhi, Ayesha Khalifa, Rubayat Mansuri and Rehan Khalifa are among the victim children who died in this incident.

Prime Minister Narendrabhai Modi in his message over a tweet said – Distressed by the loss of lives due to a boat capsizing at the Harni lake in Vadodara. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of grief. May the injured recover soon. The local administration is providing all possible assistance to those affected. An ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of each deceased. The injured would be given Rs. 50,000.

The Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel meanwhile declared Rs. 4 lakh to the next of kin of each deceased. The injured would be given Rs. 50,000 assistance from the State government, he further said.

Expressing grief over the incident, Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel posted on X, “The incident of children drowning after the boat capsized in Vadodara’s Harani lake is extremely heartbreaking. I pray for the peace of the souls of the innocent children who lost their lives. My deepest condolences to their families in this hour of sorrow. May the Merciful God give them the strength to bear this sorrow.”

“The rescue operation of the students and teachers on board the boat is currently ongoing. The system has been instructed to provide immediate relief and treatment to the victims of the accident,” he added.

The Chief Minister and Minister of State for Home, cancelled and postponed their scheduled engagements and rushed to Vadodara. They visited the injured people in the hospitals. They also visited the location of the incident.

The Chief Minister late in the evening handed over a probe into the incident to the district magistrate of Vadodara and asked to submit a detailed report within ten days to the State government.

Late in the night, the city police commissioner said, that the entire list of children who were out on a picnic was checked and the parents and teachers were consulted. As per these all versions, no child or teacher is missing anymore. However in order to not leave any chance, the fire and NDRF rescue staff are deployed at Harni lake.