At least twenty-five passengers of a boat fell in Tarbela Lake when a motorboat capsized due to overload some 35 nautical miles from here on Wednesday.
However all the passengers were rescued by the local divers and taken to District Headquarters Hospital.
The police said a large boat carrying fifty passengers including 12 women and children was sailing from Darband Mansehra to Haripur. When the boat stopped to pickup some more passengers near Kriplian village it overturned due to heavy load as it was also carrying some goats, firewood and belongings of the passengers.
However, fellow passengers and a group of divers who were waiting to embark another boat close to the place of accident, jumped into the lake and rescued all the passengers. Noman Shah was the only passenger who was injured after he got stuck under the heavy boat. “It was heavily loaded with passengers and luggage which caused the accident,” said Shah, accusing the boatman of poor safety arrangements.
He said that since the accident occurred in shallow water close to the bank all the passengers were rescued. “It would have been a tragedy otherwise,” he added.
Ashraf the boatman blamed passengers for overloading the boat with heavy luggage. He said he had been ferrying passengers for over three decades. Since the women were sitting on one side and the men on the other, upsetting the balance, the boat overturned. Replying to a question, he said there were no life jackets either with him or the passengers.
There are over 150 boats operating from Haripur to Darband, Baitgali, Nara Amazai, and Torghar areas. Besides transporting items of daily use from the city to their homes about 300 to 400 villagers, including women and children travel by these outdated boats.
A number of picnickers at Tarbela Lake also like to ride on small boats without knowing whether a few minute-journey is safe.
Women and children are the most vulnerable groups among the travellers, because in most cases they do not even know how to keep themselves afloat.
An incident in 2008 in which four persons including two minors drowned during a boat ride in the limits of Khalabat Township is a case in point.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2012.