Kerala, with its rivers, lakes, backwater and rivulets, offers tourists and travellers immense options for relaxing boat rides.
However, at a time when the state is mourning the death of 22 people in the Tanur boat tragedy, caused by the blatant violation of safety rules, many are wondering whether travellers can themselves take steps to ensure their safety.
Dr K G Thara, former head of the Institute of Land and Disaster, Thiruvananthapuram, guides us on ways for a safe trip and how to exercise caution during boat rides.
1) Look for the registration details of the boat: Owners are legally bound to display the details visibly inside the boat. See whether it has details like the registration number. If you can't find it, ask the boatmen for the same. While this is not a fool-proof method to ensure safety as a traveller - as many boatmen fraudulently use duplicate registration details - the very act of you asking for it can make them vigilant, to an extent.
2)Check the weather updates for the region: If the weather is not conducive, don't undertake the ride.
3) Cancel the trip if the boat is crowded: If you feel the boat is crowded, ask the boatmen for the vessel's permitted capacity. If you don't feel they are quoting the right number or sense that the ferry is crowded, do not travel in it.
4) Check if life-jackets are provided: Ensure boatmen provide life-jackets to everyone in the boat. It is also advisable to take our own safety precautions, as much as possible.
For example, wear a jacket or windcheater and tie it tightly around your midriff. Inside the jacket, arrange empty, tightly closed plastic bottles around your body. This in itself can act as a decent floating device. (In case you need extra precaution, you can also tie four or five kerosene cans together and use them as a floating device.)
5) Stop roaming around the boat: Don't move around the boat carelessly to take pictures. This can affect the balance.
6) Call 1070: If you sense danger midway through the ride, get in touch with the District Disaster Management (Call 1070) and ask for advice. You can also take the help of the Fire and Rescue Service (101) and the Police (100).