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9 drown as rescue boat capsizes in Sangli

Sangli/Kolhapur: Nine people drowned on Thursday when a rescue boat capsized in flood-ravaged Sangli district of western Maharashtra, even as floodwaters were expected to recede faster as Karnataka agreed to release more water from the Almatti dam downstream.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis conducted an aerial survey to review the flood situation in Sangli and Kolhapur, which are the worst hit following heavy rains in the area where the Krishna and Panchganga rivers are in spate.

Nine people drowned and four were missing after a boat engaged in rescue work overturned in Sangli, an official said.

The mishap took place near Brahmanal village in Palus tehsil when the boat was carrying around 30 to 32 people affected by floods to a safer place, Pune divisional commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar said.

“Nine bodies have been recovered so far. Some 15 people swam to safety,” he said.

Police officials and disaster management personnel were making all efforts to trace the missing persons, he said.

The boat belonged to the village panchayat, a local official said.

Karnataka agreed to release five lakh cusec of water from Almatti dam, located downstream on the Krishna river, an official from Fadnavis’ office said.

Fadnavis spoke to his Karnataka counterpart B S Yediyurappa, who agreed to release five lakh cusec water from Almatti Dam in North Karnataka, he said.

This will help to bring down the water level in the flood-affected areas in western Maharashtra, he said.

Altogether 22 rescue teams are working in Kolhapur (NDRF-5, Navy-14, Coast Guard-1, Army column-1, SDRF-1), the official said.

In Sangli, 11 teams have been deployed (NDRF-8, Coast Guard-2, Army-1), he added.

Five more NDRF teams reached Pune, of which two are on way to Kolhapur and two to Sangli.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah also spoke to Fadnavis and assured all help from the Centre, he added.

Till Wednesday, around 1.32 lakh flood-affected people in Pune region (comprising districts of Pune, Satara, Solapur, Sangli and Kolhapur) were shifted to safer places, an official earlier said.

“The road communication between Sangli and Kolhapur and between Kolhapur and Belgaum (in Karnataka) has been affected,” he said, adding that people should avoid travelling on Mumbai-Bengaluru national highway (NH 4).

Former chief minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said the boat tragedy in Sangli was “avoidable”.

“In view of this incident, I would like to ask the state government to summon more NDRF teams to both the districts as the teams deployed so far are not enough,” he said, adding that Air Force choppers should also be used to evacuate people from the flood-affected areas.

“More lifejackets should be procured as it is risky to evacuate people from floods without the jackets,” he said.

Congress MLA from Palus, Vishwajeet Kadam, said there is scarcity of boats in the region.

“Though NDRF teams are working, I think help from the Army and Navy should be taken as their boats are much more capable of handling the current situation,” he said.

NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik accused the government of “waking up late” to the flood situation and slammed the Chief Minister’s aerial survey as “disaster tourism”.

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