Kerala: 15 students, 3 teachers drown in boat tragedy
Kochi, Feb 21: Fifteen students and three teachers, out on a picnic, drowned and ten others injured when the boat in which they were taking a joyride, capsized at Ovungal Kadavu in the Periyar River.
Though Ernakulam District Collector had stated that 20 students died in the accident, the police sources confirmed the death as 18.
According to official sources, there were 37 students in the boat when the mishap occurred. The dead include nine boys, six girls and three lady teachers.
They were part of a group of 118, including ten teachers and two non-teaching staff from St Antony's School, Elavoor, near Angamali in the district, who had come for a day's holiday to Thattekkadu, about 70 km from here. They had gone boating on the Bhootathankettu reservoir when the accident occurred.
All the students involved in the mishap were aged below 12 years and studying in standards five to seven.
Poor light hampered rescue operations which caused the casualties to rise. Local people, police and fire services personnel, who led the rescue operation saved 19 children.
The picnic team left in three boats to the Thattekkadu Bird sanctuary and one of the boats capsized in the catchment area of the sanctuary at around 1830 hrs.
A 12-member diving team, including one medical assistant, with all equipment had also pressed into rescue operations.
Education Minister M A Baby said the government would order an inquiry into the accident and the mode of probe would be decided after discussions with Chief Minister V S Acuthanandan.
The sources said that DGP would probe the incident.
He also said the school authorities should follow all security measures while taking students on excursion and the government would issue certain guidelines in this regard.
Some of the escaped students said that they moved to one side of the boat after noting entering water into the boat, which lost the balance of the boat and capsized.
In the meanwhile one official said that the ill-fated private boat had no valid licence and also boarded more people than its permitted capacity.
Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan and Governor R L Bhatia condoled the deaths.
The government had cancelled all official engagements and declared a holiday to all educational institutions in the district.
Kerala Fisheries Minister S Sharma, Educational Minister M A Baby and Public Works Minister T U Kuruvilla visited the spot.
Later Mr Sharma said that necessary orders had been issued to handed over the bodies to the parents without conducting post-mortum.