2 October 2009
Thekkady: The Kerala government has suspended boating in the Thekkady lake after several survivors of Wednesday's boat tragedy blamed lack of safety measures for the capsize that claimed 41 lives.
A judicial probe would cover all aspects of the accident including safety following complaints of poor measures and the steerman's handling of affairs, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan said.
Driver Victor Samuel, who is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Theni in Tamil Nadu, blamed a group of tourists for the mishap saying they moved towards one side of the vessel. Dinesh Dinakaran, a tourist from Madurai, who lost his wife and two children in the mishap, said adequate safety measures were not in place and the boat did not even have life jackets.
Peter Rayan, a tourist from London who was travelling in another boat, said the vessel was tilting to the right which suggests 'there was something fundamentally wrong with it'. "The Centre was considering setting up a unit of the National Disaster Response Force in Kerala, which now exists only in Tamil Nadu for the south," Union Minister of State for Home Mullapally Ramachandran said after visiting the injured.
Meanwhile, wailing kin identified the bodies of their relatives who were on board the state-run double-deck boat that sank after cruising five km. The state has announced a solatium of Rs five lakh to the next of kin of the deceased.
Search operations by naval divers to recover the bodies of victims were called off this evening due to inclement weather and darkness even as relatives of three tourists claimed they were missing.
Ten bodies were fished out taking the death toll in the capsize to 41, state officials said, adding all the victims had been identified. Eighteen of the victims were women and seven children, Idduki SP Kuttappayi said.
Of the 41 deceased, 15 vacationers were from Tamil Nadu, 11 from Delhi, six from Andhra Pradesh, five from West Bengal, two from Karnataka and one each from Maharashtra and Punjab.
Sources in the hospital where the bodies were brought had earlier put the death count at 42 but later said it was 41. Meanwhile, eyewitnesses claimed that many life jackets were found in the boat's engine room without even their plastic covers being removed.