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Wullar boat tragedy: death toll rises to 22

Source: PTI
Last updated on: May 31, 2006 15:03 IST
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The death toll in the Wullar lake boat tragedy in Jammu and Kashmir has risen to 22 with the recovery of five more bodies, a defence spokesman said on Wednesday.

Joyride turns fatal for school kids

"Five bodies of schoolchildren were recovered from the lake on Wednesday morning taking the death toll in Tuesday's mishap to 22," the spokesman told PTI.

With the latest recoveries, the total number of children drowned in the incident has reached 21. The other person killed in the accident is a female teacher.

A navy boat carrying nearly 40 students from the Burning Candle High School of Handwara town in Kupwara district for a joyride capsized in the Wullar lake at Watlab, 75 km from Srinagar.

Meanwhile, funeral rites of the children whose bodies were recovered on Tuesday was performed at Handwara town amid an emotionally-charged atmosphere, official sources said, adding that the law and order situation was under control.

The Jammu and Kashmir government has ordered a judicial probe into the boat tragedy, an official spokesman said in Srinagar. Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has ordered a judicial inquiry by a sitting judge to ascertain the circumstances in which the tragic incident took place resulting in the drowning of schoolchildren, the spokesman said.

Later talking to reporters after the postponement of the state Congress Working Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Azad said he has directed that the judicial probe into the incident be completed within a month.

Directions have also been given for quick recovery of bodies of the boat tragedy victims and providing all kind of relief and assistance to the bereaved families.

Azad said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi had conveyed their sorrow and sympathy to the families of the victims.

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister Shivraj Patil also conveyed their sympathies to the bereaved families, he added.

Meanwhile, Naval authorities said that 'suitable disciplinary action' would be initiated against those found responsible for Tuesday's Wullar lake boat accident in which 21 school children and a teacher were drowned during a picnic boat ride.

Army, under whose command the Naval Commandos operate in the Wullar lake area, has also ordered a Court of Inquiry to investigate the incident. A Naval spokesman said the army inquiry was statutory and would run parallel to the judicial inquiry ordered by the state government.

"Navy deeply regrets the accident," a Naval statement said in New Delhi, making it clear that the force was committed to providing all assistance towards expeditious investigations.

Vice Admiral NK Verma, Chief of Personnel at the Naval Headquarters, has flown to Srinagar to call on Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to offer condolences. He will also hand over a cheque of Rs 20 lakh for disbursement to the bereaved families, the spokesman said.

The Naval statement on the tragedy said a detachment of the Naval Marine Commandos with an acronym MARCOS is deployed at Wullar lake, Asia's largest fresh water lake to assist the army in counter insurgency operations.

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