Couple on trip to Lakshadweep islands recounts their horrifying experience; boat accident claimed 5 lives on Saturday

At Lakshadweep, the tropical blue sky and the serene wash of turquoise sea water on the finest powdery white sand promise a thoroughly relaxed mood to the tourists. But the journey to the tiny dot of heaven could be extremely stressful and perilous.

On Saturday morning, five people onboard a trawler drowned after the boat capsized while ferrying around 30 from Amini island to Kadamat, a distance of over a kilometre. Some of the tourists on their way to the islands too are often taken on a ride close to death. A couple who went recently on a honeymoon to the islands recounted a life-threatening trip.

To get to the islands, tourists usually depend on ferries run by government agencies. But the couple had to make use of a fishing boat as the ferry did not operate that day.

Sampat and Soumita, working in Kolkata, had planned to visit three islands — Agatti, Kadmat and Kavaratti. The couple reached Agatti after a one-and-a-half hour journey by flight from Kochi, and were supposed to take a ferry service to Kadmat island as arranged by the tour operator. As the ferry was cancelled, they were asked to opt for a ‘Pablo’ boat to reach Kadmat, for which they had to pay an extra Rs.18,000.

“We were told that tourists were not allowed to stay in Agatti as the existing resorts had been closed down due to some ongoing court cases. By then, all arrangements had been made and therefore, we unwillingly parted with the amount,” said Mr. Sampat.

The ‘Pablo’ boat was nothing more than a crude fishing boat. The couple pushed off around 3 p.m. to Kadmat. We were told the journey would take about four hours. “The boat had no seats and we settled on the edge of a raised platform from where a boatman controlled the engine and the rudder”. After two hours, the soft rolling waves became menacing and started crashing onto the sides of the boat. “The wind picked up pace and the boat was swaying dangerously. The sea became darker and the light was fading. We could see life jackets on the floor, about six feet away from us and felt reassured that, in the worst case, we could just grab those.”As the sea grew wilder, the waves started crashing fiercely onto the deck. “As the sea was choppy, we thought it would be a good idea to wear the lifejackets. But the six feet between us and the lifejackets seemed like an endless gorge. We had just started a new life and it seemed as if it would end in the middle of the Arabian Sea”. Certain lights were visible at a distance and it was from the island Amini. It would take another half an hour to reach Kadmat.

“We were sailing in pitch black darkness. The sea, which had calmed down a bit near Amini island, again picked up from where it had left off. We sailed in the darkness for another half hour, clinging to each other till light was seen from Kadmat island. It was 9 p.m. by the time the boat entered the lagoon and berthed at the boat jetty. The journey which should’ve taken over three hours, lasted six hours. “We were glad to touch the ground, and gladder to be alive.”

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