HYDERABAD, Aug 8: Eight persons of a family drowned after a small boat capsized in a natural waterway in Jhando Marri taluka of Tando Allahyar district on Thursday.
The deceased, all of them from to Walay Dino Mallah village, were identified as 50-year-old Mohammad Ismail, his 40-year-old wife Gidri, 17-year-old daughter Sakina, seven-year-old son Naveed, 10-year-old maternal grandson Danish, 22-year-old nephew Juman, and relatives including six-year-old Monita (daughter of Mumtaz) and Naseema (daughter of Rab Dino). The bodies were fished out and handed over to their relatives.
The passengers had boarded a small boat to cross a natural waterway, called Ailchi Dhoro (waterway), to reach neighbouring Hashim Mirbahar village when strong winds caused the small boat to capsize.
Two passengers, 17-year-old Shahnaz and five-year-old Babul, survived the incident. A villager who had been standing on the opposite side of the bank in Hashim Mirbahar village jumped into the water and saved them.
Though Mr Ismail had not boarded the boat and was standing on the bank of the natural waterway to see his family off, when he saw the boat capsize he too jumped into the water to try and save them. However, he himself drowned before he could reach his family.
Out of the passengers, only Juman knew how to swim. But when he tried to help others on board the boat they clung on to him and everyone except the two surviving girls drowned.
A pall of gloom hung over Walay Dino Mallah village after the news spread and emotional scenes were witnessed when the bodies were brought back.
There were two versions of the reason for family’s fatal boat trip to Hashim Mirbahar village. According to the first version, they were going there to visit a graveyard, while according to the second one Mohammad Ismail’s family was going to visit his married daughter who lived there.
Tando Allahyar deputy commissioner Agha Rahim Pathan and local elder Pir Amjad Shah rushed to the spot after the incident and called for rescue and relief work.
According to an elder of the area, Ismail Palhi, the Ailchi waterway covers around six dehs — Ailchi, Hingorani, Dasori, Kehi, Thebli and Sahrki.
He said that if villagers took the land route for routine visits then they had to cover six kilometres to reach the opposite side of the Ailchi waterway but by boat the distance was reduced to about one kilometre.
He said that during the 2011 monsoon, around 8,000 acres of land had been inundated, including 166 acres owned by the forest department. “Now the entire area is being used as a fish pond by local PPP leader Ali Nawaz Shah and his son MPA Zia Abbas Shah,” alleged Mr Palhi, recalling that he had held a press conference at the Hyderabad Press Club on July 7, with former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MPA Dr Irfan Gul Magsi, warning of an impending disaster if rainwater was not drained.
However, former provincial forest minister Ali Nawaz Shah said that the incident had occurred quite a distance away from the forest land and the boat had capsized because it was overloaded. He said that local villagers caught fish from the standing rainwater.
Meanwhile, PML-N leader and former MPA of the area, Dr Irfan Gul Magsi, called for an inquiry into the tragedy and said that compensation should be paid to the bereaved family members. He said that in the press conference on July 7, he had appealed to the authorities to drain the rainwater because in case of heavy rain the water would inundate other villages.