In the worst tourism tragedy in Kerala, at least 25 persons died when a state-run double-deck boat carrying 74 tourists capsized today 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.
District Collector Ashok Kumar Sinha said bodies of 25 persons have been recovered and the toll may go up. The victims included 11 women and six children, Idukki Superintendent of Police Kuttapayi (ED correct) told PTI.
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.