A Christmas pleasure ride turned into a tragedy for 22 members of a family, when a boat capsized near the sea mouth of the Pulicat lake backwaters on Sunday afternoon.
Only three boys were rescued out of the 25 present on the boat. A dozen bodies were fished out by rescuers by late evening.
The search operations were set to go on into the night.
Ashok, an alert fisherman who was on a boat in the vicinity, rescued Paul Dinakar (10), Ponraj (12), and Janakaraj (13). They were admitted to the Ponneri government hospital.
All the passengers on board belonged to one family. The head of the family, Soundarapandian annachi, ran a hotel on the Gummidipoondi bypass road. His grandson was baptized on Sunday morning. Many relatives had joined them for the joyous occasion and a group of over 20 family members made the trip to the Pulicat lake.
Official sources said though the boat could hold no more than 10 passengers, there were 25 on board when the accident happened.
The boat was not equipped with life vests. The boat driver Ansari (19) and his wife Nasirin Begam, who until recently worked in the hotel in Gummidipoondi, are also feared dead.
Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Sunday announced an ex gratia of Rs. 1 lakh each to the families of the 22 victims.