Thiruvananthapuram, Nov. 4: Eight higher secondary students drowned when their overloaded boat sank in a Kerala river, the tragedy coming just over a month after a houseboat packed with tourists capsized and killed 45 of them.
Todays victims, including a girl, were all between 15 and 17 years of age.
They were returning home from their school in the northern Malappuram district this evening when their country boat overturned in the Chaliyar. Most of the students, said to number between 30 and 40, swam to safety.
Some of the boys who first reached the bank swam back and saved the girls. The personnel from the nearby Naval Academy at Ezhimala helped with the rescue.
The students were coming from SS Higher Secondary School in Malappurams Moorkannur and were crossing the river to reach a bus stand near their home in Areekode, around 190km from Kochi. Students do so everyday to avoid a 5km detour by road.
Joida, a schoolgirl who swam to safety, said there were about 40 students. The boat tilted a bit and capsized when the students stood up to avoid getting wet. She said the boatman had asked some of the students to get off before sailing but nobody paid heed as there was a scramble to get home. Usually, there are only 20 students.
The Chaliyar isnt very wide and the boat was being hauled from one side to the other with a low-strung rope across the river. Chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan ordered an inquiry by the collector but questions bobbed up again about the lack of safety on boats and ferries in Keralas famed rivers and lakes.
Todays tragedy revived the memories of an incident a few years ago when 15 students had drowned after their picnic boat capsized in an Ernakulam reservoir.
Five of the 45 tourists who had died in the Thekkady tragedy on September 30 this year were from Bengal.