Malayattoor residents block passage of ambulance protesting alleged insult to the bodies

Sporadic bursts of anger swelled into a mass rage in front of the St. Thomas Hospital at Malayattoor where the bodies of five NCC cadets from Delhi who drowned in the Periyar were taken to on Wednesday.

Initially, the pellets were reserved for the Forest Department, which is responsible for safety of visitors. But the crowd’s target later was administration. What outraged the crowd was the alleged move to transport the five bodies in three ambulances. They stood before the gate blocking the movement of bodies to General Hospital at Ernakulam for post-mortem examination and further procedures.

The crowd, taut with anger, took off over what they call the callous attitude of the Forest Department. “Forest Department is responsible for manning the area where the accident happened. They simply issue tickets but have scant regard for the safety of the visitors,” said Jijo, a local resident.

“How many more victims do they need before doing something? It’s often people from other states who fall victim to the accidents here, as the locals are very much aware of the lurking danger,” said Nelso, another resident.

Later when the five bodies were being shifted out to Ernakulam, the crowd blocked the gates of the hospital. “Each body should be taken in a separate ambulance. You can’t demean the bodies by piling them up one over the other simply because the victims belong to other states,” said Francis, a resident of the area.

Police struggled to manage the crowd and make way for the ambulances inching out of the hospital.

Additional District Magistrate B. Ramachandran said the transportation of bodies was never an issue. “There were four ambulances and one of them had the provision to carry two bodies. The district administration did everything expected of it to deal with the situation,” he told The Hindu.

Tension eased after Mr. Ramachandran heard out complaints and promised action.

Malayattoor Divisional Forest Officer B.N. Nagaraj refuted allegations of apathy on the part of his department for the accident. Security guards of the department and the Vana Samrakshana Samithi had taken precautions and warned the members of the trekking camp. The accident occurred as some cadets gave the supervising officers a slip, he said.

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