A pall of gloom descended on Periapattinam, a Muslim-dominated coastal village in Ramanathapuram on Sunday morning as the news of the boat tragedy, in which at least 13 people, mostly women and children were killed, started pouring in.
It was on the same day, thousands of people lost their lives in the tsunami that hit in 2004. Hundreds of people, including purda-clad women, thronged the shore of Periapattinam.
The family of Kuthus Alimsha, an Indian born Australian citizen who came to his native village, was on a picnic on two boats to Vaala Island when one of the boats capsized. The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park has banned visit to the island considering its ecological importance.
“We are shocked to hear the news. It is sad that the sea, which is a source of livelihood for hundreds of families in the region, has swallowed the women and children,” said S. Abubakkar, who was among those involved in the rescue work. An eyewitness said that a few villagers, who saw the overcrowded boat, had advised the family not to undertake the trip considering the safety of women and children. However, they went ahead with the plan.
It was said that though the sea, which was calm when they started the journey, turned rough and volatile as they travelled ahead. Another rescuer said the accident could have been averted had the boat carried minimum people.
As against the maximum capacity of just 10 persons, the boat carried around 40 persons. Nobody had carried life jackets.
Enquiries revealed that both the boats did not get permission or even inform the officials concerned about the programme.
A resident of Periapattiam said that though visiting islands was banned by the forest officials, the villagers continued to visit them. However, no forest or other officials had enforced the ban so far.
Meanwhile, the police have identified those killed in the accident as S. Firthouse Banu (40), S. Fathima Farhana (35), A. Salima Beevi (48), A. Malia (42), S. Alimuthu Beevi (45), A. Abibu Nisha (38), I. Barakath (37), Jothira Shajahan (7), J. Mahubu (14), S. Muppilaka (12), A. Harsadha (15), S. Kaleel (11) and S. Abdul Vahab (14).