Kerala boat tragedy: Death toll rises to 22; helicopter called in to support rescue operation
A houseboat (tourist boat) with more than 30 passengers on board capsized and sank near the Thoovaltheeram beach in the Tanur area of Kerala’s Malappuram district on Sunday. The death toll rose to 21 as rescue operations still underway on Monday. Women and children were among the victims who lost their lives. A helicopter was called in to assist in the search and rescue operation.
Sports Minister V Abdurahiman said 20 deaths were confirmed on the basis of information from various hospitals where those pulled out from the water and inside the boat were admitted. Four people in critical condition have been admitted to a Kottakkal hospital here, Abdurahiman said.
“The boat is being hauled ashore and more bodies are expected to be recovered from inside,” he told PTI.
Abdurahiman said many of those who died were women and children who had come for a ride amid the ongoing school vacations.
PM Modi announces relief
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has condoled the deaths and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of each victim. “Pained by the loss of lives due to the boat mishap in Malappuram, Kerala. Condolences to the bereaved families. An ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh from PMNRF (Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund) would be provided to the next of kin of each deceased,” Modi was quoted as saying in a tweet by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also condoled the loss of lives in the accident. In a tweet, he said, “Distraught by the news of a houseboat capsizing in Malappuram, Kerala. My heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones, and wishes for the speedy recovery of those injured.”
“I appeal to Congress workers to assist authorities in rescue operations,” he said.
Health Minister Veena George has called an emergency meeting following the accident to assess the situation, the state government said in a statement.
George instructed that expert treatment be ensured for the injured and the post-mortem process sped up so that the bodies can be released quickly to the next of kin, the statement said.
The post-mortems will be conducted at Tirur, Thirurangadi, Perinthalmanna hospitals and Mancheri Medical College by bringing sufficient staff, including doctors, from districts such as Thrissur and Kozhikode, it said.
The minister has issued strict instructions to conduct the post-mortems from 6 am and, if possible, at the private hospitals also where some of the bodies have been kept, according to the statement.
Speaking to reporters earlier, Abdurahiman had said, “More victims are believed to be trapped under the boat and have to be brought out. The boat had overturned. The reason for it is not yet known. The police will investigate it.”
He is coordinating the rescue operations along with Tourism Minister PA Mohamed Riyas.
CM Vijayan’s statement
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan issued a statement condoling the deaths and directed the district collector to carry out a coordinated emergency rescue operation.
Fire and police units, officials from the Revenue and Health departments and local residents from Tanur and Tirur were involved in the rescue operation, the statement said.
The Chief Minister’s Office said Vijayan will visit the site on Monday.
According to the statement, Monday has been declared a day of official mourning and all government programmes stand postponed as a mark of respect to the victims.
Earlier, PK Kunhalikutty, an MLA of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), said the toll is expected to go up as rescue operations continue.
“It is a very tragic and unfortunate incident,” the former minister said.
Speaking to reporters from a government hospital near Tanur here, he said overcrowding is believed to have been the reason behind the vessel capsizing.
Boats are not supposed to go out for rides after 6 pm but it is believed that the rule was violated in this case, he added.
The incident occurred around 7 pm near an estuary close to the Thoovaltheeram beach in Tanur, the police said.
Those rescued were admitted to nearby private and government hospitals. The exact cause of the accident is not known at present, they added.