They were tourists from Tamil Nadu

On a day when a replica of a ‘kettuvallom’ (Kerala’s traditional houseboat) was the State’s Republic Day float in New Delhi, two women tourists and their two children were killed in a boat accident here on Saturday morning.

The dead were part of a 63-member team of employees of a business firm based in Nungambakkam, Chennai, and their family members. The team was on two-day tour of the State.

The accident occurred at the Kayal Kurissadi boat jetty, where the team was to board a houseboat for a daylong trip to the backwaters. The team reached Kochi on Saturday early morning and checked in at a hotel at Vazhakkala in the city before heading towards Alappuzha by road.

The accident occurred when the team was boarding the houseboat kept ready for them. Rajesh V., one of the survivors who has been admitted to the General Hospital, told The Hindu that their boat was berthed by the side of another boat near the jetty and they were asked to pass through the first boat to reach their boat.

When the women and children passed along the boat berthed closer to the jetty, it started to tilt, due to the load factor. Some of the tourists were trapped inside the boat as it sank.

Locals and other boat operators, who were present at the spot, told The Hindu that the boat was berthed there for repair.

When the boat tilted, the crowd panicked.

“We could rescue those who were closer to the jetty and even those on the other side of the boat. But in the panic, some of them got inside the boat and were trapped as the boat sank in no time. We tried to break a window that remained above water level and pulled some out, but the two women and children could not make it,” said Kunjumon, one of the boat workers who was involved in the rescue operations.

The dead were identified as Sudheshini, 26, wife of Pandidurai, Flat Number 155, MGR Nagar, Athannur, Oorappakkam, Kancheepuram district, and her five-year-old daughter, Ilakkya, and Rohini, 32, wife of Manoj, Number GA, Pioneer House, 28, Saravana Street, T. Nagar, Chennai, and her daughter, Sushmita, 14. Nidha, 42, was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the Alappuzha General Hospital.

Those admitted to the hospital, besides Ms. Nidha, were Kalpana, 27; Sahana, four-and-a-half; Hridayavarsha, 10; Prathibha, 34; Rajkumar, 32, and Albert, 43. Sheeba, 34, wife of Ashokan, one of the houseboat operators, was admitted to the hospital, after she collapsed on reaching the spot and witnessing the tragedy.

K.C. Venugopal, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, supervised the rescue operations there.

“All arrangements were made to take the bodies to Chennai in mobile freezers and an Air-bus was arranged for rest of the team to accompany them. Police and Revenue officials have also been asked to escort the team,” he told The Hindu.

A.P. Anil Kumar, Minister for Tourism; T.M. Thomas Isaac, MLA; P. Venugopal, Alappuzha District Collector; K. Padmakumar, Inspector General of Police, Kochi Range; and Thomson Jose, Superintendent of Police, Alappuzha; were present at the hospital to handle the situation. The tourist team was scheduled to return to Kochi by Saturday evening and stay there for the night.

They had plans to visit Athirapally waterfalls in Thrissur on Sunday before returning to Chennai by the evening train.