At least 31 drown as tourist boat sinks in Kerala

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - 23:54

Thekkady (Kerala): In the worst tourism
tragedy in Kerala, at least 31 persons died when a state-run
double-deck boat carrying 74 tourists capsized on Wednesday in the
famous Thekkady Lake in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Idukki
district.

Forty persons were rescued after the recently launched
Kerala Tourism Development Corporation(KTDC) boat sank after
cruising five km from the boarding point in Thekkady from
where it had set out around 4 PM. Some of them were in a
critical condition. Thekkady is about 150 km from Kochi.

According to eyewitnesses, the tragedy occured when the
ill-fated boat tilted after several tourists moved to one side
on sighting elephants in the Wildlife Sanctuary on the banks
of the lake. The injured were rushed to nearby hospitals in
Periyar.

The tourists were mainly from outside Kerala with a
majority of them reported to be from neighbouring Karnataka.
Unconfirmed reports said a male foreigner whose nationality
was not immediately known was among the victims.

Officials said tonight bodies of 31 persons were
recovered. The victims included 14 women and six children,
they said.

The tourists on "Jalakanyaka" boat were on a trip to have
glimpses of wildlife in forests bordering either side of the
lake, located in Thekkady, home to India`s largest wildlife
sanctuary Periyar.

Besides state forces, a team of 40-50 navy divers have
been rushed to the spot from the Southern Naval Command at
Kochi, 150 km from Thekkady lake, naval sources said. Naval
helicopters were also pressed into service.

Rescue operations were hampered because darkness had set
in.

Today`s mishap is one of the major boat tragedies in the
state after the capsize of a boat carrying school children at
Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary in Ernakulam district a few years
back. The tragedy claimed 22 lives, most of them primary
students.

Official sources said the possibility of foreign
tourists being among the victims could not be ruled out.

Top police officials said several boats with rescue
guards and generators for providing light had been sent to the
spot where the boat sank, they said.

Expressing shock over the tragedy, Defence Minister A
K Antony said from New Delhi that navy and other forces had
been instructed to render all possible help in the rescue
work.

Kerala Govt orders probe

Kerala Chief Minister V
S Achuthanandan ordered an enquiry into the boat tragedy
that claimed at least 25 lives in the Thekkady Lake in the
Periyar Tiger Reserve in Idukki district.

The Chief Minister told reporters that the revenue
department had set up a control room here, as most passengers
in the boat were from outside Kerala.

According to officials, Navy helicopters had already
reached the spot to carry out further rescue operations.

The control room number is 0471-2333198. The tourism
department has also arranged help desks on the following
numbers: 0486-9222620/9222111 and 94460 52361, they said.

At least 25 persons died when a state-run double-deck boat
carrying 74 tourists capsized today in the famous Thekkady
Lake.

Forty persons were rescued after the recently launched
Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) boat sank after
cruising five km from the boarding point in Thekkady from
where it had set out around 4 PM.

Bureau Report



First Published: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - 23:54

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