The Forest Department plans to introduce a permanent disaster management programme for its staff, said Forest Minister Binoy Viswom.

The Minister was speaking to media persons after visiting Manakavala, the site of the boat tragedy in Thekkady Lake.

The decision comes in the wake of the Thekkady boat tragedy.

The support of the Disaster Management wing of the State government will be sought in this regard. The Minister directed the forest officials to provide all required logistic support for the personnel engaged in the rescue operations.

The Forest Department has cancelled the Wildlife Week celebrations, which was to begin at Kumili on October 2. All the celebrations that were to be organised in association with the Wildlife Week will be cancelled. Homage will be paid to the victims of the accident at the rally that will be taken out at Kochi on Friday. However, the wildlife exhibition planned at Ernakulathappan Ground will continue, Mr. Viswom said.

Unused safety equipment

There was no shortage of live-saving equipment like life jackets and lifebuoys in the ill-fated boat. Whenever a vessel is purchased, all the mandatory safety equipment recommended by the Chief Inspector of Boats will be purchased and attached to the boat. However, people are reluctant to use them despite the directive from the boat crew, Mr. Viswom said.

It was the patrol boat of the Forest Department that perambulates the lake by 6 p.m. that came in handy for the rescue operations. The officials patrol the lake in the evening to ensure that no vessels are plying there beyond

6 p.m. The personnel of this boat were the first to reach the area for rescue operations, said Mr. Manoharan.

Minister travels without safety measures

The boat that carried media persons and the team of forest officials led by Mr. Viswom didn’t had sufficient life saving mechanism on board. None of the passengers were also wearing life jackets as the vessel was moving towards the accident site. A few lifebuoys could be seen tied safely on the hand rails of the upper deck of the ill-fated boat.

A few lifebuoys, apparently used by some of the survivors and rescue personnel, could be seen drifting in the water a few metres away from the accident site.

The Forest officials maintained that the driver of the ill-fated boat was an experienced hand. The driver might have lost the control of the vessel as people moved to one side of the boat on spotting a bison on the bank. He was later shifted to a hospital, officials said.

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