The death toll in the tourist houseboat accident near the Thoovaltheeram beach in Kerala Malappuram has risen to 22, officials said on Monday (May 8).
Eight people were rescued after the boat capsized on Sunday evening and are undergoing treatment at various hospitals, district officials said.
A team of NDRF scuba divers along with local fishermen are still searching for bodies.
While overcrowding of the boat is believed to have caused the accident, the exact reason is still being ascertained, ministers who are reviewing the situation said. Eyewitness said the boat was overcrowded and headed to the sea.
A senior district official told PTI that all the 22 people whose bodies have been recovered have been identified. “We have requested the help of all agencies. NDRF and Coast Guard teams have already reached the spot. We have also sought the Navy’s help,” the official told PTI on Monday. The exact number of people in the capsized vessel is yet to be ascertained, the official added.
Sources told The Federal that 11 of a family were buried in a single grave in a mosque graveyard.
While six ministers are already at the spot, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has reached the Taluk Hospital in Tirurangadi where survivors of the incident are admitted.
Malappuram boat accident: Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan arrives at Taluk Hospital, Tirurangadi in Malappuram district where survivors of the incident are admitted.
22 people lost their lives after a tourist boat capsized last night. pic.twitter.com/7NSZKPjmki
— ANI (@ANI) May 8, 2023
The government has issued an appeal to report any missing persons from Sunday.
Modi announces ₹2 lakh ex-gratia
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has condoled the deaths and announced an ex-gratia of ₹2 lakh to the next of kin of each victim.
“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 (Prime Ministers National Relief Fund) would be provided to the next of kin of each deceased,” Modi was quoted as saying in a tweet by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan while condoling the deaths on Twitter, said the entire rescue operation is being coordinated and supervised by cabinet ministers.
“Deeply saddened by the tragic loss of lives in the Tanur boat accident in Malappuram. Have directed the district administration to effectively coordinate rescue operations, which are being overseen by Cabinet Ministers. Heartfelt condolences to the grieving families & friends,” he said in a tweet.
In a tweet, President Droupadi Murmu called the incident “extremely shocking and saddening” and prayed for the wellbeing of the survivors.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also condoled the loss of lives in the accident.
In a tweet, he said, “Distraught by the news of a houseboat capsizing in Malappuram, Kerala. My heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones, and wishes for the speedy recovery of those injured.”
“I appeal to Congress workers to assist authorities in rescue operations,” he said.
Emergency meet called
Health Minister Veena George has called an emergency meeting following the accident to assess the situation, the state government said in a statement.
George instructed that expert treatment be ensured for the injured and the post-mortem process sped up so that the bodies can be released quickly to the next of kin, the statement said.
The post-mortems will be conducted at Tirur, Thirurangadi, Perinthalmanna hospitals and Mancheri Medical College by bringing sufficient staff, including doctors, from districts such as Thrissur and Kozhikode, it said.
The minister has issued strict instructions to conduct the post-mortems from 6 am and, if possible, at the private hospitals also where some of the bodies have been kept, according to the statement.
Speaking to reporters earlier, Abdurahiman had said, “More victims are believed to be trapped under the boat and have to be brought out. The boat had overturned. The reason for it is not yet known. The police will investigate it.”
He is coordinating the rescue operations along with Tourism Minister PA Mohamed Riyas.
The chief minister has also directed the district collector to carry out a coordinated emergency rescue operation.
Fire and police units, officials from the Revenue and Health departments and local residents from Tanur and Tirur were involved in the rescue operation, the statement said.
Vijayan is likely to visit the site on Monday.
According to the statement, Monday has been declared a day of official mourning and all government programmes stand postponed as a mark of respect to the victims.
Earlier, PK Kunhalikutty, an MLA of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), said the toll is expected to go up as rescue operations continue.
“It is a very tragic and unfortunate incident,” the former minister said.
Speaking to reporters from a government hospital near Tanur, he said overcrowding is believed to have been the reason behind the vessel capsizing.
Boats are not supposed to go out for rides after 6 pm but it is believed that the rule was violated in this case, he added.
The incident occurred around 7 pm near an estuary close to the Thoovaltheeram beach in Tanur, the police said.
Those rescued were admitted to nearby private and government hospitals. The exact cause of the accident is not known at present, they added.
(With inputs from agencies)