Eight students, including a girl, drowned when a country boat ferrying them across the Chaliyar river at Moorkanad, Areekode in Malappuram district, capsized on Wednesday. The accident occurred at 4.45 p.m. when the students were returning home from school. The victims were Plus One and Plus Two students in the 16-18 age group.

The police identified the deceased as Suhail, Shihab, Siraj, Shahidali, Shameem, Thaufiq, Mohammed Mufti and the girl Taiba.

Eyewitness accounts said the boat was carrying around 40 students of Sub-us-Salam Higher Secondary School, Moorkanad. Sand-mining workers and the local people rescued the rest of the students who fell into the river. Many students swam to safety. The bodies are kept at the Areekode taluk hospital.

2 in serious condition

The condition of two children is reported to be serious. One of them was shifted to the Kozhikode Medical College. Reports from the scene of the accident suggested that four children were missing but confusion persists on this count. The Fire and Rescue Services personnel and police officers are conducting search operations. Poor visibility at night is hampering the rescue efforts though lights hoisted on inflatable dinghies are being used at the accident site.

A 15-member naval team has started from Kochi to help in the rescue efforts.

The country craft is the usual mode of transport for villagers to commute between Moorkanad and Areekode. The tragedy has plunged the village into shock and sorrow.

Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan has directed the Malappuram District Collector to submit an emergency report on the cause of the accident. Ponnani MP E.T. Mohammed Basheer visited the accident site.