Hyderabad: About 120 tourists had a miraculous escape when a double-deck boat ferrying them on a leisure trip to picturesque Papikondalu caught fire on the river Godavari.
Police said the presence of mind shown by the boat’s driver saved the lives of those on board including many children and the elderly.
A cruise to Papikondalu is a must on the tourism circuit of East and West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh.
According to police the mishap occurred just ten minutes after the cruise had left from Pochammagudi near Polavaram in river Godavari this morning.
Witnesses said the fire broke out when tea was being prepared on a gas stove and soon the flames spread to the generator room.
As the fire was spreading to the other parts of the boat, the driver turned it towards the nearest bank at Veeravarapu Lanka island where the passengers jumped onto a sand beach.
While the children and elderly aboard were helped by the crew and other passengers, some local people also helped in the rescue.
Soon after all passengers were evacuated, the entire vessel was gutted by fire.
Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu spoke to the West Godavari district collector about the incident and rescue operation.
He ordered officials to ensure safe return of the tourists to their respective destination.
One-day, as well as two-to-threeoday cruises on the river Godavari between West Godavari and Khammam district was highly popular among the visitors as it passes through the breathtakingly beautiful hills Papikondalu.
Every day dozens of boats with each carrying more than hundred visitors travel in the route.
At least 21 tourists had died when a ferry had capsized at Pavitra Sangamam, the meeting point of rivers Godavari and Krishna near Vijayawada in November last year.