At least 22 dead after tourist boat capsizes in Kerala

Death toll expected to rise, with many of the victims pupils on their school holidays

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A double-decker boat carrying more than 40 passengers capsized off a beach in India's Kerala state on Sunday night, killing at least 22 people.

The incident took place at around 7pm near Thooval Theeram beach in the Tanur area of Malappuram.

The boat was carrying more than 40 people, more than double its capacity, police said.

The dead included schoolchildren on holiday. Media reports said passengers were not wearing life jackets.

The owner could not be found by police, who filed a manslaughter case against him.

“The boat capsized due to the [weight] of people. It was overburdened, although we don't know the exact number of the people on the boat yet. That will be investigated,” Vimal C, a police officer at Malappuram police station, told The National.

“For now, the rescue is under way. We have deployed navy, National Disaster Response Force and coastguard teams for the rescue and search of those missing.”

Many dead as boat overturns in India’s Kerala state

Many dead as boat overturns in India’s Kerala state

Benny VV, a senior police officer, told The National that at least 10 people were being treated at government-run hospitals, while five survived after they swam to safety as the boat capsized.

“We don't have much hope to find more bodies but the search operation is on until we are sure,” Mr Benny said.

Of the 22, 11 belonged to the same family. They were four men, three women and four children, including a 10-month-old baby.

The state government has announced a judicial probe into the incident and announced a compensation of one million rupees ($12,200) to the families of the deceased.

State Health Minister Veena George said post mortem examinations were under way.

Kerala's Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who will visit the area on Monday, tweeted his condolences to the victims' families and urged the district's authorities to oversee the rescue.

The boat takes tourists on a four-hour journey along the estuary. It is allowed to operate until 5pm, but boats were operating beyond stipulated hours to accommodate higher demand at the weekend, local media reported.

When the vessel capsized, fishermen and other peoples on the riverbank leapt into the water to rescue the passengers.

Prakash Vellayil, a fisherman, told local newspaper Mathrubhumi that the ferry was a modified fishing boat that was full beyond its capacity.

Witness Lubina, who escaped the accident after refusing to board the “overcrowded” boat, said that only children sitting on the upper deck were wearing life jackets.

Monday has been declared a day of official mourning, PTI reported, quoting the government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “pained by the loss of lives” and pledged compensation for the victims' families in a tweet.

Boating accidents are common in India, where many vessels are overcrowded and have inadequate safety equipment.

In September 2020, 12 people died when a sightseeing boat capsized on the swollen Godavari River in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

In May 2018, 30 people died when a boat overturned in the same region.

Updated: May 08, 2023, 10:34 AM