20 feared dead as boat capsizes near Chennai

20 feared dead as boat capsizes near Chennai

20 feared dead as boat capsizes near Chennai

Over 20 people were feared drowned as a boat they were in capsized in Pulicat Lake, bordering Thiruvallur district in North Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, on Sunday evening.

The tragedy occurred when the boat, usually deployed for fishing, believed to be carrying at least 25 people, was caught in a sudden strong wind and rough sea waves at the “Mukha Dhwaram” of Pulicat Lake, where it merges with the Bay of Bengal, police sources in Ponneri, the nearest Taluk town, told Deccan Herald over the telephone.

“The Mukha Dwharam of Pulicat Lake is a prohibited area and prominent display boards warn tourists and holiday boat riders not to venture towards that area,” the sources said. Yet, those people obviously risked going there despite the warning. 

“The atmospheric conditions were perhaps calm, when this group of people, apparently on a joy ride on a Christmas holiday, went cruising up towards the ‘Mukha Dwaram’. Suddenly the wind and sea conditions changed for the worse,” said sources. Further investigations are on.

When the boat suddenly turned turtle, nearby fisher-folk swam to the rescue of the passengers. The bodies of 12 people have been retrieved till 7 pm which included that of two men, eight women and two children, police sources said. Three youths had been safely brought ashore by local fishermen.

All those, including the boat’s oarsman, met with a watery grave, ironically on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the 2004 tsunami which battered the Tamil Nadu coast. The victims are reportedly from Gummidipoondi and nearby places in Thiruvallur district.

Identification of the dead will take some more time.

Pulicat is one of the largest fresh water lakes in the country and the recent heavy monsoon rains had filled it to the brim. On the north-eastern side of the vast lake is the Sriharikota Space launch pad of the Indian Space Research Organisation on the Andhra Pradesh side of the border.

Compensation

Expressing her deep shock and grief at the boat tragedy in which 22 persons were fatally drowned, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Sunday night announced an ex-gratia of Rs one lakh each to the next of kin of each death victim. Till 9 pm, 15 bodies have been recovered, Police said.

Many of the dead victims are believed to be from one family of one Sundara Pandiyan of Gummidipoondi, making the tragedy all the more poignant.

 

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