Tragedy strikes tourists

Tragedy strikes tourists

35 killed, many missing as boat capsizes in Thekkady lake in Kerala

Some of the tourists fight for survival after their cruise boat capsized in Thekkady lake in Kerala on Wednesday. TV grab/Courtesy Asianet NewsThe dead included 18 women, six children and two foreign nationals.  The toll is expected to rise as around 20 people are still reported missing and none knows how many children below five years who didn’t need a ticket were in the boat.

Most of the dead were non-Keralites who arrived from Delhi, Punjab, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra to enjoy their Puja holidays.  Close to 20 bodies were identified till late in the night. The driver of the boat and his assistant were the only Keralites on the boat who managed to survive.

According to information reaching here, the fibre boat “Jalakanyaka”  owned by Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) had taken off on its final trip of the day at 4 pm. It takes almost an hour’s journey before turning back. The accident occurred less than 5 km from the boat landing centre and just before it began its return journey around 5 pm. 

Tourists have to be alert enough to spot animals in the distant forest. They tend to forget the general directive not to crowd on one side of the boat at the sight of an animal. The boat staff are well trained to prevent such dangerous shift of balance.

Yet, eye witnesses say,  the accident occurred when excited passengers on the upper deck moved to one side to spot some animals. The boat overturned and those who were seated on the upper deck were thrown into the water while the lower deck got submerged.  The accident occurred at Manakkavala where the lake is about 40 feet deep. Passengers in another boat who saw the accident could hardly intervene. They  returned to the jetty to get help.Local people, fire force, police and forest officials rushed to the spot to help in rescue efforts, which were hampered by rain and darkness.

The services of Navy divers were being sought to fish out any bodies in the river. The bodies of 24 people were brought to Periyar Hospital, St Augustine Hospital and Government Hospital at Kumily, the nearest township,  till late in the evening.

KTDC sources said the capsized boat  was a new one which began service in June. The boat  had received the mandatory fitness certificates.

It is alleged that there were not enough staff to supervise the passengers. The Kerala State Government has opened a control room here with telephone numbers 0471-2331403 and 2333198.

Control room set up in State

The Karnataka police have set up a control room at the office of the Director General and Inspector General of Police, reports DHNS from Bangalore.  The Control room numbers are 22942111/22942777/22211777. AIG P Harishekharan will be in touch with Kerala police officials.