RAUTAHAT, Aug 27: On Saturday, Dinesh Patel of Gaur Municipality-4, Rautahat, was preparing for Rakshya Bandhan, the festival which celebrates the bond and trust between brothers and sisters. He was waiting for his sister Runadevi to return to her maternal home from Ishnath Municipality-3, which is around four kilometers away. She had set off for her maternal home on Saturday evening with her youngest son.
The Lalbakaiya River lies in on the way to her maternal home. The river is unpredictable during monsoon. It becomes dry one moment and another moment it brings massive flood without any warning.
Pappu Chandrabanshi, a boatman, was preparing to call it a day after ferrying the last group of passengers on his boat Saturday evening. There were 27 people on board including Runadevi and the boat was heading to the eastern bank of the river. It was already dark. Pappu's passengers included people who were returning home after collecting fodder as well as others heading to their relatives home for the festival.
When the boat reached midway, the calm Lalbakaiya suddenly changed its form. The river became swollen all of a sudden with massive flood, making it difficult for Pappu and his helper Om Prakash Chnadrabanshi to control it. They lost control of the boat and it hit a pillar of an under-construction bridge, which tore apart the boat.
Then, flood water gushed inside the boat. The passengers on board had little time to think. Five of them were able to swim to safety. Some others managed to save themselves by clinging on to rods of the under-construction bridge. The flood washed away the others.
When the swollen river settled, families of some passengers were left to mourn the death of their loved ones. Some of those passengers who were hoping to celebrate Rakshya Bandhan did not live to celebrate it.
Runadevi's too did not make it. Her body was recovered Sunday morning from Sitamadhi of India's Bihar state. Her son Nigam Patel is in a state of shock. He was along with her during the boat capsize but manage to cling on to some object and was rescued three hours later.
Five people of a single village are still missing after the boat capsize. Sunday's festival remained gloomy not only for Runadevi's family but also for the family of the boat helper Om Prakash Chandrabanshi. His two sisters, who were married off, had returned home and were waiting for him to celebrate the festival. The sisters who pray for long life of their brother during this festival could not even see his face.
Many did not celebrate the festival despite its significance in the Hindu religion as the whole village is mourning the deaths, said Mahendra Sahani, a local.