More bodies recovered from capsized boat in Kerala, India

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Image of the boat in question, tilting, before the actual event.
Image: Harsh Tibarewala.

At least 44 bodies have been recovered from a lake in India lake after a boat carrying tourists capsized in the water. The accident occurred in Periyar National Park located in the city of Kerala. The bodies of a mother, her child and one other individual were among the latest victims pulled from the water.

Passengers of ill-fated boat before the accident.
Image: Harsh Tibarewala.

On Wednesday, a boat carrying 75 people, mainly women and children, was returning from a fair that marked the end of the Durga Puja, an annual Hindu festival celebrating the worship of the Hindu goddess Durga. Fifteen people, including the boat driver and two staff members, were able to swim to safety after the boat capsized, but officials believe there are no other survivors. Reports say the person driving the boat turned sharply to one side before it capsized.

Wikinews obtained exclusive pictures of the boat before and after the accident. Images show the boat significantly leaning to one side shortly before the accident occurred. A later image shows the boat almost entirely submerged as rescue workers frantically work to rescue the trapped passengers.

Rescue operations.
Image: Harsh Tibarewala.

According to the Indian Express, the boat was being operated by workers who were not trained in rescue tactics had the boat been suddenly damaged. The paper also claims that of the two person crew, a driver and a lascar named Victor Samuel, neither were assigned direct control of the boat. The paper also says the boat was not licensed to operate in the area it was traveling. The paper cites a 1921 law, which says the driver must watch over the engine while another crew member, a 'srank', drives the vessel, but no one in that position was aboard the vessel when it capsized. Samuel said that he only obtained his lascar license one year ago, contradicting earlier reports that suggested he had more than 15 years of experience driving similar boats.

Officials are continuing to investigate the incident. So far, no criminal charges have been filed. The boat was made of mostly fiberglass, had two decks and was owned an operated by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, a government-owned company. According to reports, Samuel was only licensed to operate wooden boats and had no experience driving ones made of fiberglass. Samuel and the two staff members have been suspended pending the results of the investigation.


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