Saturday’s houseboat tragedy is the latest blow to Kerala Tourism’s safety record. The worst was in 2009, when 32 tourists drowned after a KTDC-operated vessel capsized in Thekkady. While overloading was cited as a factor, there were allegations of flaws in the boat’s make, since its stability was in doubt.
The accident affected tourist inflow too since it occurred just before the State’s tourist season.
In 2007, 15 students and three teachers drowned after a rickety vessel that was passed off as a tourist vessel overturned in Thattekkad. Though children crowding to one side was mentioned as a reason, there were doubts about the boat’s build quality and how it got the licence from the then Chief Inspector of Boats.
This was followed by a spree of accidents and fires involving house boats, mainly in Alappuzha. In 2002, 29 commuters died after a State Water Transport Department ferry sank in Kumarakom, due to overcrowding. This paved the way for stricter enforcement of passenger capacity norms in ferries.