The Atlantic boat that met with accident in Tanur brought to shore | Photo: Mathrubhumi/P Krishna Pradeep
Tanur: The recreational boat service that started to boost the tourism potential of Thooval Theeram here during Eid al-Fitr took a disastrous sail on Sunday evening resulting in the death of at least 22 people, including several children.
The boat named Atlantic with around 40 tourists on board capsized at 7:30 pm on holiday evening. The incident occurred at Kettu Azhi in the estuary. As many as 12 persons were rescued in the operation that is still underway under difficult conditions.
The two-decker boat service is operated by a private individual with permission from the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC). However, reports say the boat does not have a licence. Boats are permitted to operate at the point where the river meets the sea. The boat belonged to a local named Nasser from Tanur, and four other boats service in the region. The trips are scheduled to end at 6 in the evening.
Eyewitnesses stated that the main reason for the accident was overload. There has been no official confirmation so far. It was the last service of the day. The boat tilted to one side due to its excess weight. The fact that most people did not use life jackets contributed to the severity of the accident.
The boat overturned in an area out of sight of people, and the fact that it was a double-decker and covered with glass added to the danger.
According to eyewitnesses, more people were on board than the boat was permitted to carry, and the journey continued beyond the allotted time. The boat, which was allowed to carry 20 people, carried more than 35 people.
Locals had previously warned against exceeding the boat's capacity, but their advice went unheeded.
The boat service picks up people from the Thooval Theeram on a four-kilometer journey in the estuary before returning them to the same spot. The service charges Rs 100 for half an hour of travel, and children do not have to pay a fee.
The accident happened an hour and a half after the allotted time had ended. After hearing the commotion from the people on the boat, a nearby family reported the incident. Locals started the rescue operation with a small boat, and those thrown out of the boat were easily rescued. However, those trapped inside the boat got stuck as it drifted into the mud.
Lubina (42), a native of Kozhichena, narrowly escaped the accident as she did not board the boat. According to her, the boat sank immediately after the journey started, and the children rushed to the upper deck of the boat, causing it to capsize. Only the children had life jackets. The tragedy has shaken the nation, and an official mourning ceremony has been announced in the state to pay respects to those who lost their lives.