Water gushes in through a loose fitting
A houseboat that was parked for night stay in the Vembanad Lake sank partially early on Monday. Passengers in the boat were shifted to safety.
The police said ‘Smart,’ a double-decked steel boat, sank when the link between the boat and the propeller loosened, leaving a gap for water to flow in. The houseboat had 15 passengers from Bangalore, who were returning from ‘darshan’ at Sabarimala, apart from the boat crew.
Normally houseboats which begin their journey by noon from Punnamada finishing point will park after 5 p.m. on the shores and will resume journey only by 8 a.m. The mishap took place around 3.30 a.m. Those in the houseboat sector said that an alarm, which costs less than Rs.1,000, could be set up in houseboats to warn the crew of rushing in of water. If warned half an hour in advance, those inside the boat could be rescued. But, ‘Smart’ did not have such an alarm. S.K. Pyarelal of the Department of Shipping Technology, CUSAT, said that though the Kerala Inland Vessel Rules, 2010, stipulated that houseboats should be scientifically designed, most owners did not follow the rules. “Internationally, there is ‘one compartment standard’ i.e. boats should be constructed in various compartments so that even if water gushes into one compartment, the vessel should not sink or turn turtle,” he said. However, sources in the sector said most houseboat owners left the construction to contractors, who would look for cheaper alternatives. According to Mr. Pyarelal, fire incidents in boats can be prevented by following international rules that ban use of cooking gas cylinders inside vessels. Also, diesel is not to be placed near the engine room. “Every houseboat has to be launched after getting it tested it by a naval architect,” he said.