Three foreign tourists, believed to be from Bangladesh, were charred to death in a major blaze in a houseboat on the famous Dal Lake on Saturday, officials here said.
Burnt beyond recognition, the tourists' bodies were retrieved from the debris of the gutted houseboats near ghat nine on the lake, a popular attraction for tourists visiting Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital, the officials said.
The cause of the fire, which engulfed five houseboats and as many huts attached to those, was not immediately known. The officials said preliminary investigations suggested that the fire broke out in one of the houseboats in the early hours due to malfunctioning of a heating appliance.
The victims' DNA samples were extracted to establish their identities, the officials said, adding they are believed to be from Bangladesh and included a woman, according to the records being maintained by the houseboat operators.
The bodies will be identified through DNA samples with the family members of the victims before being handed over, the officials said.
Property worth crores of rupees were destroyed in the fire that broke out around 5.15 am. The blaze was brought under control after hectic efforts by locals and fire and emergency services personnel, the officials said.
This was the second major fire incident involving houseboats that are anchored on the Dal and the Nigeen lakes. In April 2022, seven houseboats were gutted in a devastating fire on Nigeen Lake, mostly popular among foreign tourists, on the outskirts of the city. However, no one was hurt in the incident.
Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Aijaz and senior tourism department officials visited the scene of the blaze on the Dal Lake and assured all possible help in rebuilding the damaged houseboats, the officials said.
The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) also expressed its grief over the fire incident and said, "It is indeed a great loss to the heritage houseboat population." Javid Ahmad Tenga, the KCCI president, in a statement urged the Lt Governor-led Jammu and Kashmir administration to assess the losses and extend the necessary moral and monetary compensation to the victims on a war footing to ensure their rehabilitation.
It also demanded quick permission for the reconstruction of the gutted houseboats and for ensuring supply of the required quantity of timber at the earliest.
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