At least 22 people, mostly women and children, drowned and some 20 others were badly injured when an overcrowded tourist boat capsized at Poorapuzha in the Malappuram district of Kerala, close to the estuary in the Kadalundi river, late on Sunday, 7 May.
Seven of those who were killed in the accident were children.
The incident occurred around 7 pm when the privately-owned leisure boat was allegedly carrying about 40 people to Thooval beach on the Arabian Sea.
Search and rescue operations continued through the night, with a National Disaster Response Force team arriving at the spot on the morning of Monday, 8 May. Personnel from the India Navy are also expected to join the search efforts.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the deaths and announced financial assistance worth ₹2 lakh each to the families of those who were killed in the incident.
Pained by the loss of lives due to the boat mishap in Malappuram, Kerala. Condolences to the bereaved families. An ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh from PMNRF would be provided to the next of kin of each deceased: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) May 7, 2023
Illegally modified boat, owner absconding
Local people told television news channels that an old fishing boat was remodeled as a two-deck tourist boat. No safety concerns were addressed when the remodeling was done, they contended.
There is still no clarity on how many people were actually on board the ill-fated boat. According to the police, only 39 tickets were issued.
The police are on the lookout for the owner of the boat, MK Naser, who is said to be absconding.
Rescue work underway
Kerala Sports Minister V Abdurahman, who is also the local MLA, informed South First over the phone that the condition of at least 10 among the rescued was serious.
The minister himself was overseeing the rescue operations and said the details of the dead and the injured were yet to be entirely ascertained.
According to him, no tourist boat is permitted after 5 pm, but the ill-fated two-decker boat carried people beyond its capacity by around 7 pm, disregarding all safety-related restrictions.
Meanwhile, the rescued have been admitted to different hospitals in Tirurangadi, Thanoor, and Tirur.
Shafeeq, a local rescue worker, informed South First that most of those on board the boat had no life jackets and that was one reason the casualties were so high.
Additionally, the boat had two doors and both apparently remained locked during the tragedy. As it capsized, people were unable to move out easily.
Shafeeq said the incident occurred when the boat was hardly 500 metres from the jetty.
Rescue work was initially delayed because of the lack of proper lighting. However, the local community started saving people before the police and fire force personnel arrived at the scene.
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The location is just outside the limits of the Parappanangadi-Thanoor municipality in the northern Malappuram district of Kerala.
Kerala PWD Minister PA Muhammad Riyas reached the accident site by around 11 pm. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will visit the accident spot on Monday.
It was only last month that Kerala’s first floating bridge was inaugurated in the locality.
The bridge was across the river and its estuary, facilitating people to get panoramic views of both the river and the sea.
This facility prompted private boat services in the area to target visitors both from and outside Malappuram.