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Kerala boat tragedy could have been avoided: Judge


Thekkady (Kerala) : The boat tragedy in Kerala’s Thekkady tourist spot that killed 42 people Wednesday evening could have been avoided if the state government had taken measures like appointing a water transport safety commissioner, an official who inquired into a similar incident in 2002 said Thursday.

Justice K. Narayana Kurup, who headed the inquiry commission into the Kumarakom boat tragedy in Kottayam district that killed 27 people, said a competent authority should have been appointed to look into all the safety aspects.

“It is really sad to see that there is none to check all such aspects. Just by saying that this was a new boat does not mean anything. I wish to know if there was a dummy test done on the boat to see how it moves in the water? I feel there is some serious defect in the boat,” Kurup said.

“Lapses like this will certainly affect the tourism industry in the state. Training has to be provided to the staff who operate the boats. They have to ensure that all those who travel in the boats must wear life jackets. A fitness certificate must be given only after conducting proper tests,” Kurup told a TV channel.

At least 42 people were drowned when their boat capsized at the Periyar wildlife sanctuary in central Kerala Wednesday evening.

The pilot of the boat, who is convalescing in a hospital, told reporters that he had driven the fibreglass boat only four times before.

“If the boat was made of wood, this tragedy might have not occurred. I told the people who were travelling not to crowd on one side. They did not listen. I lost control of the boat and it turned upside down,” pilot Victor Samuel said.

Justice Pareed Pillai, who inquired into the Thattekad boat tragedy that killed 17 people in Ernakulam district in 2007, said that he was not sure if the state government had implemented all his recommendations.

But Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan told reporters: “Each accident is different and one cannot conclude that there has been a failure. We will look into all the details.”

Water Resources Minister N.K. Premachandran said that the judicial inquiry into the tragedy will unveil all aspects of the incident.

The double-decker boat of the state-run Kerala Tourism Development Corporation was brand new and had been pressed into service only last month.