Thekkady boat tragedy

Posted: October 1, 2009 in Travel
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Around 35 people, including eight children and six women, drowned when a boat carrying 76 tourists sank in the catchment area of the Mullaperiyar river in Kerala around 5.15 pm on Wednesday, around 12 km away from the landing in the artificial lake near Thekkady.

The lake is known for tree stumps that dot waters, some of them submerged, making boat navigation the exclusive domain of experienced boat drivers. None of the passengers on board was known to be wearing a life jacket.

The tragedy of the boat ‘Jalakanyaka’, belonging to the Kerala Tourism Development Corporationm, once again throws light on the need of implementing safety standards for tourism services in general and for boat cruises in particular.

This is not the first time such a tragedy has occurred in Kerala. In February 2007, 15 schoolchildren and three teachers of St Antony’s Upper Primary School, Elavoor, drowned when their cruise boat capsized at the Thattekkad bird sanctuary. The accident had happened around sunset. As was the case in Thekkady, none was wearing a life jacket.

Then owner-cum-driver of the boat P.M. Raju had been awarded a sentence of five years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1.5 lakh for being guilty of rash navigation of vessel and culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The sentence was later suspended on an appeal.

In 2002, 29 people drowned in Kumarakom and the victims were local commuters and not tourists.

The boat might have toppled because the centre of gravity of the boat was higher. The problem could have been accentuated by the passengers moving to one side of a boat with a second deck. I wonder, why tourists were not provided with life jackets? Why were they not asked to sit instead of standing and rushing to the upper deck of the boat?

The Kerala police department has opened helpline numbers in Thiruvananthapuram, Kumali and Thekkady.
Thiruvananthapuram: 0471 2331403,  0471 2331639
Kumali: 04869 222111,  04869 222620
Thekkady: 04896 222620,   9446052361
Toll free number: 170

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  2. Though Periyar wildlife sanctuary at Thekkady is a tiger reserve, it’s really hard to see them. But some animals can surely be seen. Eventually, nature is the only reason to go there.

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