The Left Front government on Wednesday ordered a judicial inquiry into the Thattekkadu boat mishap in which 15 schoolchildren and three teachers met with their watery grave.
Announcing this Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, who cut short his Delhi visit to rush to the St Antony's School in Ealvoor (Erankulam), also ordered a relief of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the victims.
"It is a sad day for the entire state. The government will do everything to avoid such tragedies that occur due to neglect," a visibly upset chief minister said.
Earlier all the bodies were brought to the school to pay last respect. The school witnessed heart-rending scenes. P Ashokan, who lost his 11-year-old twin daughters Aswati and Amurtha, was inconsolable. Even in death both sisters were holding on to each other's hands tightly.
The police also found it difficult to control people who turned in large numbers to have a glimpse of the tiny-tots well below the age of 12. A joy ride turned watery grave for students St Antony's School on Tuesday evening.
About 106 students and 10 teachers were set out for an excursion in the morning. After visiting the Thattekadu bird sanctuary they went for a boat ride in Boothathankettu reservoir in three boats. But one of the boats, Shiva Tejeswani, met with the mishap. About 56 students were there in the ill-fated boat when it sank. Locals, who rushed to the site after hearing the commotion, saved many lives. The driver of the ill-fate boat is absconding.
The Thattekad sanctuary is one of the important bird sanctuaries of the country and Dr Salim Ali, the late ornithologist, had described it as the richest bird habitat on peninsular India. But illegal sand mining in the area is posing a big threat to the bird habitat. Many green activists blamed the sand mafia for the latest accident. Mindless mining has created deep gorges in the seabed that resulted in deadly water currents, they claimed.
Meanwhile, the state Human Rights Commission has sought a report from the government. It has asked the Chief Secretary to file details of accident and circumstances that led to it. The state government has also announced a crackdown on illegal boat services.
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