More than 32 tourists on board a double-decker boat owned and operated by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation were killed when it capsized in one of the deepest zones of the Mullaperiyar dam reservoir in Kerala’s Idukki district around 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The toll would possibly be higher, according to informed sources.

A rescue team had recovered 26 bodies till 8 p.m. Two persons were rescued alive.

The rescue operation was continuing late into the night. Four tourists who were rescued in a critical condition died later. There were five foreign tourists, of whom two died.

A total of 82 persons were travelling in the boat, named ‘Jala Kanyaka’; 60 of them belonged to one group from Karnataka. The boat left the jetty around 4 p.m. and capsized some 7 km away.

All the 60 persons from Karnataka had come in a tourist bus to Thekkady as part of their tour of Kerala. Preliminary investigation revealed that the accident took place when a large group of tourists on the upper deck rushed to one side of the boat to see animals spotted on the forest fringes. In the sudden movement, the boat overturned. All the 82 tourists in the boat were thrown into the water. Twenty persons, who were mostly on the upper deck of the boat were rescued by boats sent in by the KTDC, the Forest Department and the Tamil Nadu PWD.

The rescue operations were hampered by the spreading darkness and the distance of the accident spot from the boat landing centre. The area where the boat capsized was about 100 feet deep and the shore had wild animals such as elephants.

The helpline numbers are: Thiruvananthapuram Control Room – 0471-2331403; 0471-1331639 and 0471-2333198. Control Room, Kerala House, Delhi: 011-23342320; 011-30411500.

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