Tourists in Andaman Islands boat capsize tragedy had no life jackets
At least 21 killed and 29 rescued after vessel - reportedly with no life jackets and filled over capacity - capsizes near Andaman Islands
An overcrowded tourist boat which capsized off India's Andaman Islands with the death of 21 people was not carrying life jackets and rescuers did not arrive for two hours, officials and survivors said yesterday.
A total of 29 people were plucked from the waters off the coast of the remote archipelago on Sunday afternoon and nine of them are now in hospital, according to the islands' information secretary, Rakesh Bali.
"Initial reports suggest that overcrowding caused the incident," Bali said, adding that a more detailed investigation was under way. Bali said all the victims were Indian tourists, mostly from the Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu on the mainland.
V. Narayanasamy, a minister in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office, said that an investigation had been ordered by local authorities but the main causes of the disaster had already been established.
"I can confirm there were no life jackets on the boat and the amount of passengers that it was carrying was well beyond its capacity," Narayanasamy said.
"The inquiry will establish who was at fault and those responsible will receive the maximum punishment."
Families of victims will receive 200,000 rupees (HK$24,700) in compensation, said the minister.
Denis Giles, editor of the Andaman Chronicle newspaper, said most of the survivors were picked up by fishermen, as the official rescue services took so long to reach the scene.
"It went down very fast," Giles said. "These fishermen immediately took out their small boats and reached the spot, where they tried to save as many people as they could.
"The local marine rescue and co-ordination centre was informed but it reached the spot almost two hours late."
Survivors said some passengers fell victim to exhaustion as they waited to be rescued.
"The boat was obviously overloaded. As the water seeped in, it started sinking from the back. In less than 10 minutes, the boat had sunk," survivor G. Preethy told The Times of India.
"Some 12 of us held on to a raft for help to arrive. As time went by, many tired of holding the rope and let go. At the end ... only five of us were still holding on to the rope," she added.