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Children among 22 dead after double-decker tourist boat capsizes in India

At least 22 people, including children, have died in southern India after a double-decker boat capsized off a beach.

At least 40 passengers were on the boat when it capsized off the town of Tanur in coastal Kerala state’s Malappuram district on Sunday. The cause of the accident appeared to be overcrowding, although authorities are still investigating the mishap, said Abdul Nazar, a junior police superintendent.

Rescue teams expect to recover more bodies from inside the boat after pulling it ashore from the muddy waters, he said. Currently, 10 passengers are being treated in various hospitals in the state, with many sent back after first aid.

He said India’s National Disaster Response Force and the Indian Coast Guard personnel were engaged in rescue work and trying to find those who were still missing.

The accident occurred near the estuary of the Poorappuzha river in Tanur at around 7pm local time. Most of the passengers were tourists.

The dead included children who had come for a ride on the boat during a school holiday, sports minister V Abdurahiman told the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency, adding that four people were in critical condition.

It is not yet clear how many children were the victims of the tragedy.

People carry out rescue operation at the site of a boat accident in Tanur in Kerala (AFP via Getty Images)
People carry out rescue operation at the site of a boat accident in Tanur in Kerala (AFP via Getty Images)

Pinarayi Vijayan, the state’s chief minister, tweeted his condolences to the victims’ families and urged the district’s authorities to oversee the rescue.

“Pained by the loss of lives due to the boat mishap in Malappuram, Kerala,” Indian prime minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet and announced compensation to the victims’ families.

Monday has been declared a day of official mourning, PTI reported, quoting a government statement.

Boating accidents are common in India, where many vessels are overcrowded and have inadequate safety equipment or measures.

In September 2020, 12 people drowned when a sightseeing boat capsized on the swollen Godavari river in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

In May 2018, 30 people died when a boat capsized in the same region.

Additional reporting by agencies