Tourist boat capsizes in southern India; at least 22 dead

NEW DELHI (AP) — A double-decker boat carrying more than 30 passengers capsized Sunday night off a beach in southern India, and more than 22 people including children died, officials said.

Police officer Abdul Nazar said the rescue teams were expecting to recover more bodies from inside the boat after pulling it ashore from the muddy waters. He said India’s National Disaster Response Force and the Indian Coast Guard personnel were engaged in rescue work and trying find those who were still missing.

The tourist boat capsized near the estuary of Poorappuzha River in Tanur, a coastal town in Kerala state’s Malappuram district, and most of the passengers were tourists. Nazar said authorities were investigating the cause of the accident and it appeared the boat capsized due to overcrowding.

The dead included children who had come for a ride on the boat during their school vacation, Sports Minister V. Abdurahiman told the Press Trust of India news agency, adding that four people in critical condition were admitted to a hospital.

The state's chief minister, who will visit the area Monday, tweeted his condolences to the victims' families and urged the district's authorities to oversee the rescue.

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

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “pained by the loss of lives” and announced compensation to the victims' families in a tweet.

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

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.