Boat tragedy toll rises to 41; judicial probe ordered
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The death toll in the worst-ever boat mishap in Thekkady lake in Kerala rose to 41 with rescuers fishing out ten more bodies of tourists on Thursday. Forty naval divers aided by helicopter support resumed the search operations this morning as mist and rains hampered their efforts last night.
A concerned state government ordered a judicial probe by a sitting high court judge into the tragedy. Among the dead 12 are from Delhi, nine from Tamil Nadu, five from West Bengal, four from Andhra Pradesh and three from Karnataka.
The victims from Delhi include ten belonging to three families, who were on a pleasure trip to the state. Of them, nine were women, including a minor girl. Naval helicopters conducted three sorties from their base INS Garuda in Kochi since the morning in addition to the recce by choppers late last evening, officials said. Grieving relatives struggled to come to grips with the loss of their dear ones and awaited the bodies after postmortem at hospitals nearby. The double-decker boat had sunk in the lake in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Idukki district yesterday when tourists rushed to one side of the vessel to have a glimpse of a herd of elephants, causing it to tip.
Officials said in all 75 tickets had been issued for the cruise which started around 4 PM. The tragedy took place about 5 km from the boarding point. Officials said 31 bodies had been sent to Ernakulam in Kochi for embalming and three to Madurai in Tamil Nadu from where the victims hailed.
None of the victims on board the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation's boat 'Jalakanyaka' was a foreigner, Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Revenue Minister K P Rajendran told reporters. Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan announced a judicial inquiry as also solatium of Rs five lakh each to the next of kin of the victims.
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