At least 33 people drowned when a tourist boat capsized in the Periyar River on Wednesday evening in Kerala’s Idukki district. At least 7 are still missing.
The Jala Kanyaka, carrying 73 people, overturned when a group of tourists rushed to one side of the vessel to watch a herd of wild elephants.
The river flows through Kerala’s Periyar tiger reserve, 220 km northeast of state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
Among the victims were 14 women, six men and 10 children. The toll is likely to rise, as many of the rescued passengers are critical.
Most victims were part of a group of tourists from Karnataka, while a few were visiting from other parts of the country, Kerala Tourism Development Corporation Cherian Phillip told HT.
“The boat capsized in the deepest stretch of the river. With the onset of the night, rescue operations were hampered severely,” Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said.
The government has constituted a ministerial team to co-ordinate rescue operations.
Though the boat, owned by the tourism corporation, was new, crucial safety gear, including life jackets, was missing.
Among the victims identified were Anupama Bhandari (20) from Kolkata and Delhi resident Alka (20).
The mishap occurred around 5.15 pm when the double-decker boat was returning after a two-hour cruise on the Periyar.
A team of divers was rushed from the Southern Naval headquarters in Kochi. But before the Navy help could arrive, the boat was dragged to the shore.
Control rooms have been set up in Thiruvananthapuram and Kumily, the town nearest from the accident site.
A similar tragedy had taken place two years ago in the Thattekadu reservoir in which 15 schoolchildren and three teachers drowned.
The government had appointed a high-level inquiry then, too, but most of its recommendations are yet to be implemented.