A houseboat went up in flames soon after it quickly disgorged nearly 20 domestic tourists from Aluva at a jetty near here as smoke came out from the engine side midway through a trip on the Pampa on Sunday afternoon.
The emergency was sounded while the boat was near Chackochan Jetty in the Nedumudi police station limits, the tourism police said. After the tourists disembarked, the cooking-gas cylinder exploded and the boat was gutted.
The police suspect that a short circuit had sparked off the fire. On noticing the smoke, the driver, guided by the local people, steered the boat to the jetty in quick time.
Quoting the tourists, the police said the fire broke out from the engine. An expert team from the police has arrived to examine the remains of the boat.
The four-bedroom houseboat, owned by Joseph Thattunkal of Alappuzha, began its journey at 11.30 a.m. and halted for nearly half an hour at Chennakary for lunch. The smoke came out a few minutes after the vessel set sail at 4 p.m.
The police said the owner had put the loss at around Rs. 40 lakh. The boat had been conducting service for the past two years. The timely intervention of the local people helped in containing the fire.
The Fire and Rescue Services, alerted by the boat crew, arrived to help douse the flames.
The police have filed a case.