Dhubri (Assam):  AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday visited the site of the boat tragedy at Medartary ghat in Assam's Dhubri district and assured the people that the government was taking all steps to fast track the search and rescue operations.

Gandhi spent around 20 minutes at the spot and interacted with the family members of some of the persons who died or were missing in Monday's ferry capsize even as the victim's families said, "the visit had resulted in hampering the search operation".

Gandhi assured the affected families that the government would take all measures to recover the bodies through search teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), BSF and army.  "We shall take all measures to mitigate the anguish. All efforts are being taken to search the missing persons", he told the people.

Gandhi, who took a helicopter from the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati, reached Medartary amid tight security around 3 pm and interacted with the victim's families for 20 minutes at a make-shift hut near the helipad.

However, his visit seems to have failed to assuage the local people who expressed displeasure over the entire machinery put in place for his safety and security at a time when two days of search and rescue operations had failed to account for nearly 300 missing passengers.

"Nearly 48 hours have gone by but till now no survivor has been found which is unfortunate", says Azgar Ali whose four-year old daughter is still missing. In tears, the 50 year-old Dhubri resident said her daughter was crossing the river on the ill-fated boat when the tragedy took place.

"Now Rahul Gandhi is coming to take stock of the situation along with chief minister which has resulted in hampering the search operation", said Islam Ali, another resident of Dhubri, whose wife Rani Begum, is missing. "The anguish over the VVIP visit is logical as search operation has yielded no result. We should be allowed to be involved in the search operation", Islam Ali said.

"We will urge Rahul Gandhi and the chief minister for a thorough search operation so that we will come to know about the whereabouts about our missing relatives", Ali said.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Assam Pradesh Congress Committee president Bhubaneshwar Kalita accompanying Gandhi did not speak to the media.

After the interaction, Rahul boarded the helicopter back to Guwahati airport from where he is scheduled to take a flight back to New Delhi.
Senior ministers in the state government and a huge contingent of MLAs, Youth Congress and NSUI leaders were present at the spot to welcome Gandhi.

Meanwhile, the state government said only 22 bodies have been recovered so far from the site, including three early Wednesday morning. "As per our data, 22 bodies have been recovered so far and another 41 persons are missing", Environment and Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain said earlier this morning at the site.

Sources said that 380 tickets had been issued to passengers in the ferry including scores of kids. Only around 80 persons managed to reach the shore safely after the ferry was hit by a storm and capsized. Nearly 300 persons are missing in one of the worst boat tragedies in the state and government sources said there was very slim possibility of finding any more survivors.


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