Kolkata, Jan 16 (SocialNews.XYZ) The annual pilgrimage at Gangasagar on the Sagar Island in West Bengal ended in a high-voltage drama on Monday morning after over 500 pilgrims got stranded on two ferries while being transported back to the mainland.
The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) rushed to the rescue and successfully transported the panic-stricken men, women and children to the Lot-8 jetty at Kakdwip, where the ferries were headed for.
This was clearly a case of miscalculation on the part of the authorities involved. The Muriganga River flows between Kakdwip - the location on the mainland from where pilgrims board ferries - and Sagar Island. The draft of the Muriganga depends on the tides and even the shallow-drafted ferries are at risk of running aground unless the timing is perfect. It was clearly a low-tide period when the attempt to ferry back the pilgrims from the Island was made.
"At around 9.15 a.m., our district headquarters at Haldia received an alert from the district magistrate of South 24-Parganas regarding the grounding of two ferries with over 500 pilgrims on board near Kakdwip. Our operations team deployed at Sagar for the pilgrimage immediately reached the spot and made an assessment of the situation.
"After receiving their report, two Air Cushion Vehicles (Hovercrafts) rushed to the area from Haldia and Frasergunj. An evacuation plan was formulated. Even as the hovercrafts prepared to start operations, teams from the ICG were on board the MV Ichhamati and MV Agramati, pacifying the stranded pilgrims," a senior Coast Guard official said.
Over the next couple of hours, the hovercrafts ferried 511 pilgrims (the entire lot) to Kakdwip. The operation ended successfully at around 1 p.m.
During the Gangasagar Mela, the ICG makes elaborate arrangements to ensure safety and security of the lakhs of pilgrims who congregate on the Island. While two hovercrafts carry out regular shallow-water patrols, seaward surveillance is carried out by Coast Guard ships and aircraft. Lifesaving teams, comprising divers and Gemini boats, are also deployed on the Island. There is also a team, headed by an ICG officer from Frasergunj, which co-ordinates with officials from the state government and other agencies.
"This successful operation reveals the ICG's commitment towards saving lives at sea or where ever required. In this case, had our hovercraft not reached the spot on time, there could have been panic among the stranded pilgrims as the tide wasn't due for several more hours," the ICG official added.