Thekkady: The massive search operation conducted by Navy, Forest and district officials at the Thekkady reservoir in Kerala is at its last stage. A boat carrying 78 tourists capsized at the Thekkady lake in the Periyar wild life sanctuary on Wednesday evening. Thirty-eight tourists have died and 40 have been rescued. A two year-old baby is still missing.
A judicial inquiry may have been ordered to get to what caused the tragedy, but for a state which thrives on tourism, this incident is a reminder that it's high time lessons are learnt to keep its tourists safe.
So what went so terribly wrong at South India's most popular boating reservoir Thekkady?
'Jalakanyanka', the mechanised boat of the Kerala Tourism Corporation, could take a load of 70 people at a time. But there were 78 people on the boat at the time of the accident.
The boat had new life jackets. But none of the tourists was wearing one. Some tourists refused to, and some others weren't offered one.
Four km from the boarding point, when a herd of elephants was spotted, the tourists moved to one side of the boat to watch it, causing the boat to topple. But why was there no guide to restrict movement of tourists on boat?
Commenting on the tragedy, Tourism Minister K.Balakrishnan said: "We are inquiring at a high level. We have to go to the depth to find out the lapses."
Among the dead are 15 children, who were excitedly spending their Dussehra vacation.
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 them were wearing life jackets.
The Thekkady tragedy is a shrill reminder of how safety norms are dangerously flouted not just by the department but also by tourists.