The death toll has risen to 16 in the boat capsizing incident in Malappuram district of Kerala, Malappuram SP said.
The boat was conducting trips beyond the evening, breaking regulations.
The incident happened at Thooval Theeram in Ottumbram. According to sources, since it was a Sunday during the summer holidays, many of the passengers were children. At least three women and four children were reportedly among the deceased. The boat capsized around 7pm and the lack of light initially hampered rescue operations.
Minister V Abdurahman, who was coordinating the rescue operation, said that as of 10.30pm, the information was that there were over 30 people on the boat and many were confirmed dead. He said the region was a muddy area and rescuers were still fishing people out of the water.
The minister said those vessels are not expected to carry out services after 5pm and those details will be looked into at a later date as the priority is for rescue operations. Police, firefighters and adequate lighting were made available to conduct rescue operations. However, the death toll is very high, he said. He also confirmed that the boat had indeed turned into a turtle and drowned.
Chief Minister Narendra expressed condolences to the bereaved families and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of each deceased.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan ordered the district administration to effectively coordinate relief operations.
Tanur Municipality Chairman PP Shamudheen said the boat capsized at the point where the Poorapuzha River joins the Arabian Sea. He said the accident happened after 7:00.
“The exact number of passengers on the boat is not known. However, everyone in the area says it was heavily overloaded. It appears that it capsized only due to overloading and the boat must have lost its balance at some point. When we confirmed nine dead, we had fished out five more bodies, so the number is likely to increase,” Shamsudheen said.
The boat that capsized had two decks. Fire and rescue units and local fishermen have been conducting rescue operations since the incident and continued well into the night. At least six people were initially rescued and rushed to various hospitals in the area. According to sources, a rescued girl was admitted to Tirurangadi hospital and her condition was stable. Reports on the conditions of the other survivors were yet to be confirmed.
It is suspected that there were more than 40 passengers on the boat. A smaller boat had initially reached the spot where the accident occurred and rescued some passengers who were taken to Tanur hospital, Tirurangadi and other hospitals.
According to sources, hospitals in the area had been kept on high alert with ventilated beds ready to treat victims who can be resuscitated. Rescuers were able to drag the boat ashore using the rope at night, and bodies were also recovered from the boat.
(With agency input)