Kerala boat mishap: A man-made tragedy?

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Thekaddy:  It is becoming clear that the Kerala boat tragedy was caused by passengers all moving to one side of the boat to see a herd of elephants. But it is also true that there seem to have been a whole series of mistakes and lapses that led to the tragedy.

Jalakanyanka, the mechanised boat of the Kerala Tourism Corporation is equipped to carry only 70 passengers. That day there were 78 people on board. Also, there was no guide.

The boat had new life jackets but not a single passenger had one on, not even the children.

Four kilometres from the boarding point, when the tourists spotted an elephant herd, they all moved to one side of the boat to watch it. And the boat toppled.

It's been 10 hours since he was rescued from Periyar River, but Panchalingam still continues to shiver in agony.

A resident of Coimbatore he was boating with 10 family members at Thekaddy, Kerala, on Wednesday evening. All of them died when their boat sank. His two-year-old niece's body is still missing.

"I have lost all 11 members of the family, including my wife and children. I haven't found my two-year-old child," he says.

In all, 38 people died in the accident, nearly half of them children.

"We are inquiring at a high level. We have to go to the depth to find out the lapses," said K Balakrishnan, Tourism and Home Minister.

This is not the first tourist tragedy in this state which boasts of one the highest tourist inflow. Five years ago, 29 tourists drowned after a boat capsized in the famous Vembanad Lake. Again, none of the people on the boat were wearing life jackets.

The Thekaddy tragedy is a shrill reminder of how safety norms are dangerously flouted, not just by the department but also by some tourists.

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