The toll in the boat tragedy in the Periyar Reservoir at Thekkady rose to 39 with the recovery of more bodies on Thursday.
The State Control Room here said that 20 of the victims were women and girls.Most of the bodies have been identified. The victims belonged to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi and Kolkatta. There were no foreigners among the dead.
Report from Thekkady said that two more bodies have been recovered by the Navy this afternoon, taking the toll to 41.
Inclement weather was hampering the rescue operations. Intermittent rain and low visibility had affected the search operations by the divers of the Indian Navy.
The Southern Naval Command has deputed 24 divers for search operations, said Commander Deepak Bhatia of the Southern Naval Command.
The Naval personnel had thoroughly searched the sunken boat and ensured that no bodies were trapped inside, Mr. Bhatia said.
A Naval helicopter had searched the lake this morning. But the overcast conditions and poor visibility forced it to return. However, it will return for further search operations once weather conditions improve, Mr. Bhatia said.
It takes 20 minutes of boat ride to reach the site of the accident, which is near the Lake Palace hotel. A large number of Navy, Fire and Rescue, Police and Forest officials were seen engaged in the rescue operations at th accident site. The rescue workers were also searching the bottom floor of the lake looking for bodies of the victims.
The rescue workers started attempts to tow the capsized boat to the shore and pump water out of it. Rescue workers including local people, armed with steel ropes and pulley, were seen making arrangements for towing the boat to the shore.
A few Ministers of the State government including Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran and Forest Minister Binoy Viswom are camping at Thekkady for speeding up the rescue operations and completing the formalities for releasing the dead bodies of the victims to their relatives.
A meeting of the available Ministers will be held at Thekkady to decide on the future course of action including support for the survivors, Mr. Viswom said.
Our report from Kumily:
As the search operations for more bodies were continuing at the Mullaperiyar lake on Thursday morning, post-mortem of the recovered bodies were being done at the Primary Health Centre (PHC) here. A control room with the phone number 2154 has been set up at the PHC to give information about the victims to the relatives and handing over the dead bodies to the relatives.
Official sources said that victims belonging to the distant States will be carried in flights and the embalming of the bodies will be done at the Kottayam Medical College Hospital and Pushpagiri Medical Hospital in Thiruvalla.
The bodies of victims belonging to Tamil Nadu and neighbouring areas will be carried in ambulances. Eight bodies of victims from Coimbatore will be carried in ambulances after conducting the post-mortem here, sources said.
Hundreds of people and media persons from all over the country thronged the PHC and relatives from oust side the State were reaching at the PHC to take over the bodies. Sources said that the post-mortem of all the bodies would be done before noon. It was a heart-rendering scene when the bodies of the victims, which was one of the majar accidents recently were handing over to the relatives after conducting the post-mortem. The bodies recovered on Wednesday were kept at the Periyar Hospital, St Augustine Hospital and the Government Hospital here.