Tragedy struck on Sunday in India’s Kerala state as a boat capsized in the Malappuram district, resulting in the devastating loss of life for a minimum of 21 individuals, as reported by V. Abdurahiman, the state’s minister for fisheries and harbour development.
The death toll is expected to rise as the boat remained trapped in the mud and efforts were made to rescue those trapped inside.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his sorrow over the incident, stating in a tweet, “Pained by the loss of lives due to the boat mishap in Malappuram, Kerala.”
As per the local authorities, the privately operated boat violated regulations by entering the waters after dusk without proper permission. However, due to a high influx of visitors on Sunday evening, the operators chose to continue their services disregarding the restrictions in place.
During the boat’s final trip of the day, it tragically capsized with an estimated 35-40 passengers on board. In response to the incident, the state government announced an official day of mourning on Monday and subsequently cancelled all official events. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will personally visit Tanur on Monday morning, as confirmed by an official statement from his office.
A survivor named Rafeeque informed the press that the incident occurred approximately 400 meters from the beach near the estuary of the Poorapuzha River. Disturbingly, the boat did not provide safety jackets for the passengers, and rescue efforts were delayed due to the absence of nearby boats.
While individuals on the upper deck of the boat managed to escape following the capsizing, those on the lower deck were trapped inside due to closed doors.
At first, local residents and fishermen actively participated in the rescue efforts. Subsequently, the district administration, with assistance from the police, health department, and fire and rescue departments, took charge of the operation.
The rescue operations faced challenges due to inadequate lighting and narrow roads, which delayed the process of transferring the rescued individuals to nearby hospitals. As the night progressed, a National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team from Thrissur was deployed to Malappuram to support the ongoing rescue efforts.
KPA Majeed, a legislator from the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), who arrived at the scene, confirmed that they had previously reported the lack of safety measures to the authorities.
Expressing deep sorrow over the tragic loss of lives in the Tanur boat accident, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan emphasized his directive to the district administration to efficiently manage the rescue operations, under the supervision of Cabinet ministers. In a tweet, he stated, “Deeply saddened by the tragic loss of lives in the Tanur boat accident. Have directed the district administration to effectively coordinate rescue operations, which are overseen by Cabinet ministers.”