They were tourists from Tamil Nadu
On a day when a replica of a ‘kettuvallom’ (Kerala’s traditional houseboat) was the State’s Republic Day float in New Delhi, two women tourists and their two children were killed in a boat accident here on Saturday morning.
The dead were part of a 63-member team of employees of a business firm based in Nungambakkam, Chennai, and their family members. The team was on two-day tour of the State.
The accident occurred at the Kayal Kurissadi boat jetty, where the team was to board a houseboat for a daylong trip to the backwaters. The team reached Kochi on Saturday early morning and checked in at a hotel at Vazhakkala in the city before heading towards Alappuzha by road.
The accident occurred when the team was boarding the houseboat kept ready for them. Rajesh V., one of the survivors who has been admitted to the General Hospital, told The Hindu that their boat was berthed by the side of another boat near the jetty and they were asked to pass through the first boat to reach their boat.
When the women and children passed along the boat berthed closer to the jetty, it started to tilt, due to the load factor. Some of the tourists were trapped inside the boat as it sank.
Locals and other boat operators, who were present at the spot, told The Hindu that the boat was berthed there for repair.
When the boat tilted, the crowd panicked.
“We could rescue those who were closer to the jetty and even those on the other side of the boat. But in the panic, some of them got inside the boat and were trapped as the boat sank in no time. We tried to break a window that remained above water level and pulled some out, but the two women and children could not make it,” said Kunjumon, one of the boat workers who was involved in the rescue operations.
The dead were identified as Sudheshini, 26, wife of Pandidurai, Flat Number 155, MGR Nagar, Athannur, Oorappakkam, Kancheepuram district, and her five-year-old daughter, Ilakkya, and Rohini, 32, wife of Manoj, Number GA, Pioneer House, 28, Saravana Street, T. Nagar, Chennai, and her daughter, Sushmita, 14. Nidha, 42, was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the Alappuzha General Hospital.
Those admitted to the hospital, besides Ms. Nidha, were Kalpana, 27; Sahana, four-and-a-half; Hridayavarsha, 10; Prathibha, 34; Rajkumar, 32, and Albert, 43. Sheeba, 34, wife of Ashokan, one of the houseboat operators, was admitted to the hospital, after she collapsed on reaching the spot and witnessing the tragedy.
K.C. Venugopal, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, supervised the rescue operations there.
“All arrangements were made to take the bodies to Chennai in mobile freezers and an Air-bus was arranged for rest of the team to accompany them. Police and Revenue officials have also been asked to escort the team,” he told The Hindu.
A.P. Anil Kumar, Minister for Tourism; T.M. Thomas Isaac, MLA; P. Venugopal, Alappuzha District Collector; K. Padmakumar, Inspector General of Police, Kochi Range; and Thomson Jose, Superintendent of Police, Alappuzha; were present at the hospital to handle the situation. The tourist team was scheduled to return to Kochi by Saturday evening and stay there for the night.
They had plans to visit Athirapally waterfalls in Thrissur on Sunday before returning to Chennai by the evening train.

2009 Thekkady boat disaster

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thekkady boat tragedy
Pre-Drowning Image.JPG
The Jalakanyaka, listing, is in a red square
Tilted boat.JPG
Zoomed image of tilted boat
LocationThekkady
Date30 September 2009
Passengers & Crew82[1]
Fatalities45[2]
Boat NameJalakanyaka
The Thekkady boat disaster occurred on September 30, 2009, when the double-decker passenger boat Jalakanyaka sank in LakeThekkadyPeriyar National ParkKerala, India. When the boat capsized, 45 tourists died,[3] most of them from Delhi and Kolkata.[4]A total of 82 people were on the boat.[1] The boat's helmsman, Victor Samuel, and another crew member were arrested on 5 October.[2]

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[edit]Details

The fibreglass[5] double-decker sight-seeing boat Jala Kanyaka, operated by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC), made daily sight-seeing trips in the Mullaperiyar reservoir in Idukki.[1] The boat was first commissioned on August 17, 2009.[5]
The boat set off from a landing at 4:30 p.m. and capsized 7 km away, at approximately 5 p.m. on 30 September 2009. It capsized in one of the deepest parts of the reservoir, in an area around 100m deep.[1]
Several survivors swam to safety.[6][7]

[edit]Rescue

Rescue Operations
The surrounding area has wild animals, including elephants, and is within the 777 km2Periyar Tiger Reserve.[1]
By 8 p.m, a rescue team recovered 26 bodies, and two survivors.[1] Initial rescue operations were completed by local government officials and the public before the state and federal government crews arrived. None of the initial rescue boats had divers, however a team of divers from Indian Navy was assigned to help the rescue operation 5–6 hours later. A team of 40-50 navy divers were rushed to the spot from the Southern Naval Command at Kochi. On 3 October, the search for bodies was still ongoing.
Four bodies were noted as missing until 3 October, when three were recovered by Navy divers: four-and-a-half-year-old Aishwarya and her mother Senthilkumari, from Bangalore, and Apoorva, 16, from Hyderabad.[8] A Navy helicopter spotted the body of Aishwarya first, and her mother was found nearby. The final missing passenger, Apoorva’s 19 year old brother Abhilash, was discovered on the evening of October 3 by an underwater camera, but bad weather delayed its retrieval until the following day.[9]
Twenty people, mostly on the upper deck, were rescued by boats sent by KTDC, the Forest Department, and Tamil Nadu Public Works Department.[1]
Both State and National government acted, asking defence establishments in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram to launch rescue attempts. Navy divers from Kochi were forced to travel overland, after their helicopter, sent to locate the victims, was turned back by bad weather.[1]
Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the Home and Tourism Minister of Kerala and, and N. K. Premachandran, the minister for Water Resources, arrived in Thekkady late at night,[1] and they coordinated rescue operations according to press reports.

[edit]Investigations

Boat passengers
Originally, KTDC claimed that there were 74 passengers, but police findings showed 87 passengers; some confusion in the numbers was caused by some survivors leaving the scene without reporting to the police.[5]
The fatalities consists mostly of women, mainly from outside Kerala.[1] The dead included people from Tamil NaduDelhi and West Bengal; more than 50 belonged to a group from Karnataka, who had come in a tourist bus to Thekkady as part of a tour of Kerala.[1]
Preliminary reports stated that the accident occurred when a large number of passengers rushed to one side of the boat to see a herd of bison which emerged from the forest.[1][7] The sudden movement caused the boat to capsize, and all of the passengers were thrown into the water.[1]
Later, this initial report was challenged when some of the rescued tourists reported structural problems with the boat, saying that it was tilted throughout the trip, for about 30 minutes. Then at one point the boat took a sharp turn, overturned and capsized.
The boat was owned and operated by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation.[10] The government has been blamed for not privatizing these boats, for not enforcing safety precautions and for not having efficient disaster recovery plans.[citation needed] The crew of the boat, driver and helper escaped the incident. The passengers were not provided a life jacket before the trip, and there were no lifeguards.[6][10]
The Pioneer newspaper of Dehli reported "widespread complaints" against both Kerala Government and KTDC "trying to absolve themselves of the guilt by putting the entire blame on the boat employees."[5] The Crime Branch’s probe report blamed the incident on a combination of driver negligence and overloading.[5]

[edit]Aftermath

On October 2, it was announced that the government would pay the expenses for sending the bodies of the deceased to their home states and that 5 lakhs Rs. would be provided to the next kin of each of the dead in the accident.[10] The Government of Kerala ordered a judicial inquiry into the boat tragedy.
Questioned at the scene on Monday October 5, helmsman Victor Samuel (alias Betty) attributed the incident to the sudden movement of tourists, but fellow crew member Aneesh (also written Anish) pointed out the overloading of the upper deck.[2][5][11] Preliminary inquiries revealed that the boat was overloaded, with 12 more than its capacity of 75.[5] The Crime Branch determined that when Samuel "suddenly turned the boat to the right, after the tourists sighted the wild animals”, it had contributed to the incident.[11] Superintendent of Police (Crime Branch) PA Wilson said that "the unwarranted act of driver Victor Samuel [...] swerving the boat while at high speed caused the tragedy".[5] The Crime Branch did not make a final report, pending further questioning of survivors, but Samuel and Aneesh were arrested, to be taken before the Magistrate Court at Peerumade.[11] Sameul has been charged with "causing death unintentionally."[11]
Also under consideration was the possibility raised by reports that the boat listed to one side due to a structural imbalance.[5] The police stated that the Jalakanyaka, which was recovered and brought to the dock in Thekkady,[11] "had inherent problems".[12] A careful forensic examination was scheduled to begin.[5]

[edit]Criticism

Oommen Chandy, Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly, criticized the ongoing Crime Branch probe, alleging an attempt to make the steersman a scapegoat.[13] "an attempt is on to put the blame and responsibility of the accident on the steersman,"[13] Chandy said.
Chandry told reporters that, instead of a judicial probe, the government should appoint an expert committee headed by a judicial officer.[13]
He urged Chairman Cherian Philip to consider quitting his post.[13] "Instead of supervising the rescue operations at Thekkady, Philip chose to be part of' Human Chain',[13] a political function of CPI-M, he said.[13]
The Decclan Herald said that the accident was "a result of sheer negligence",[14] and the Express Buzz said it was "faulty from the start",[15] with excess passengers on unsecured plastic chairs.[15]
Other criticisms include (1) lack of disaster recovery planning and procedures for all departments; and (2) refusal to privatize and insure tourist boats with proper government oversight.

[edit]Subsequent safety concerns

At a meeting on 5 October, state Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan announced several new safety measures: safety checks for tourist boats, mandatory life jackets for those under 15 and for those over 15 who do not supply a valid reason, lifeguards and rescue boats in proportion to the number of passengers.[12]

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