A major boat tragedy in Kerala was predicted last month by disaster response expert Dr Thummarukudy

L-R: Rescue operation at Thooval Theeram. Dr Muralee Thummarukudy. Photos: PRD/Facebook/@thummarukudy

Following the boat tragedy at Thooval Theeram, Ottumpuram in Tanur, Malappuram that claimed at least 21 lives, operators of the service have been accused of acting irresponsibly.

Survivors and locals have blamed that the toll would not have been so high if the ill-fated double-decker recreational boat had sufficient number of life jackets or lifebuoys.

Little over a month ago, Dr Muralee Thummarukudy, international expert in disaster response, had predicted the death of ten or more persons in a houseboat accident in Kerala.

Thummarukudy, who works with the Crisis Management Branch of United Nations Environment Programme, had made a lengthy post on Facebook on April 1, in which he explained his reasons.

Thummarukudy was warning the thriving houseboat industry in the backwaters of Kerala. However, he also said the threat applied to all tourism boats, including houseboats, party boats and shikara.

"This is not guesswork or astrology. Analyse the risks involved in the sector, look for warnings, observe the trend of minor accidents..

"A little carelessness is enough for an accident," Thummarukudy wrote.

No safety briefing
Based on his experience onboard houseboats in Kerala, Thummarukudy pointed out the absence of safety briefing.

Such briefings that comprise sharing vital information about potential problems and offering solutions during a journey are widely regarded as essential.

"Why don't we get safety briefings on houseboats like those given on an airplane or a cruise ship?"

Thummarukudy said that once a tragedy strikes, enquiry will be set up and it will be revealed that the driver was not trained properly or adequate life-saving equipment was missing etc.

"Won't there be more professionalism in the sector if tourism boat owners and government machinery worked in tandem?" Thummarukudy noted.

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