At least 22 people, many of them children, were killed after a double-decker tourist boat capsized in the southern Indian state of Kerala on Sunday evening. Rescuers had found eight people with injuries by the next morning, with four of them in critical condition.
Some passengers were trapped under the vessel, which was concluding a five-mile voyage in the estuary of the Purapuzha River near the town of Tanur on India’s southwestern coast. The boat was carrying more than 40 sightseers, according to survivors, when it capsized at around 7 p.m.
“The boat was overcrowded,” said Abdul Nazar, a local police officer. It did not have enough life jackets, other officials as well as survivors said. Local media reported that the vessel also lacked a required safety certificate, and was not permitted to operate that late in the day.
Among the victims were seven children, the youngest 10 months old, and 11 victims were from one family, according to the authorities, who haven’t been able to verify how many people were aboard the boat at the time of the accident. Five passengers swam ashore and were being treated at a nearby hospital, according to V. Abdurahiman, a local legislator, who is overseeing the rescue operation.
Videos posted on social media showed hundreds of local residents assisting with rescue efforts in the dark. The red-and-white boat was initially stuck in mud but was later brought to shore using long ropes tied to excavators.
The police said a family living near the shore informed them about the accident after they heard people screaming in the vicinity of it. Officials from the National Disaster Response and the Navy continued to look for the missing on Monday.
Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, said he was “pained by the loss of lives” and announced a bereavement payment to the victims’ families, according to his office.
The boat service had started only a few months ago, part of a state government initiative to increase tourism in the area. The police said they are investigating the boat’s owner, who has gone missing, for culpable homicide.
Boat accidents are not unusual in Kerala and are often due to vessels carrying too many passengers because of lax regulations and implementation of safety rules. In September 2009, a double-decker passenger boat capsized, resulting in the deaths of 45 people, including seven children in the Idukki district of Kerala. The cause of the disaster was the overloaded boat.
In recent years, state authorities have taken measures to implement several safety measures, including installing surveillance cameras to prevent the tragedies.