Day 2 : 4th August 2014. Kumily to Munnar – 115 kms
We got up at 5 in the morning and were ready by 6 am to go for the boating at Thekkady. The Tiger Reserve entrance gate opens at 6.30 am and we reached the spot by 6.15 am. The entrance ticket counter is also near the gate, since there was not much crowd in the morning we were able to get the tickets fast. Rs 150/- per head is the charge for boating, Rs 10/- per head for the entrance and Rs 25/- for the camera; Timing: 7.30 am, 9.30 am, 11.15 am, 1.45 pm, and 3.30 pm; Duration – 1.30 hrs (Earlier it was 2 hrs).
Soon after the gates were opened we moved in to the parking area which was 3 kms away from the entrance, and after parking we had to walk half a km to reach another counter where we had to fill up a form with name and address details and give to them. Probably after the boat tragedy happened in 2009, they adopted this system. After submitting the forms along with the entrance tickets they issue the boarding pass with the boat’s name and seat number, thus there was no necessity for rushing to get the seats. And the boat started as per the schedule at 7.30 am and was full. Now it is mandatory to wear the life jackets on board whether one knows swimming or not. The worst part was that the jackets were stinking.
During the boating we had seen herd of bison and wild boars in the sanctuary. Earlier the ride was up to Mullaperiyar dam with duration of 2 hours but now they reduced to 1.30 hours skipping the dam. Around 9 am we returned to the base. Overall it was a pleasant experience, but the memories of 2009 boat tragedy were haunting us, about 45 people lost their life in the mishap, MAY THEIR SOULS REST IN PEACE. 2009 Thekkady boat disaster
The Thekkady boat disaster occurred on September 30, 2009, when the double-decker passenger boat Jalakanyaka sank in LakeThekkady, Periyar National Park, Kerala, India. When the boat capsized, 45 tourists died, most of them from Delhi and Kolkata. A total of 82 people were on the boat. The boat's helmsman, Victor Samuel, and another crew member were arrested on 5 October. Details
The fibreglass double-decker sight-seeing boat Jala Kanyaka, operated by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC), made daily sight-seeing trips in the Mullaperiyar reservoir in Idukki. The boat was first commissioned on August 17, 2009.
The boat set off from a landing at 4:30 p.m. and capsized 7 km away, at approximately 5 p.m. on 30 September 2009. It capsized in one of the deepest parts of the reservoir, in an area around 100m deep.
Several survivors swam to safety. Rescue
The surrounding area has wild animals, including elephants, and is within the 777 km2 Periyar Tiger Reserve.
By 8 p.m, a rescue team recovered 26 bodies, and two survivors. Initial rescue operations were completed by local government officials and the public before the state and federal government crews arrived. None of the initial rescue boats had divers; however a team of divers from Indian Navy was assigned to help the rescue operation 5–6 hours later. A team of 40-50 navy divers were rushed to the spot from the Southern Naval Command at Kochi. On 3 October, the search for bodies was still ongoing.
Four bodies were noted as missing until 3 October, when three were recovered by Navy divers: four-and-a-half-year-old Aishwarya and her mother Senthilkumari, from Bangalore, and Apoorva, 16, from Hyderabad. A Navy helicopter spotted the body of Aishwarya first, and her mother was found nearby. The final missing passenger, Apoorva’s 19 year old brother Abhilash, was discovered on the evening of October 3 by an underwater camera, but bad weather delayed its retrieval until the following day.
Twenty people, mostly on the upper deck, were rescued by boats sent by KTDC, the Forest Department, and Tamil Nadu Public Works Department.
Both State and National government acted, asking defense establishments in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram to launch rescue attempts. Navy divers from Kochi were forced to travel overland, after their helicopter, sent to locate the victims, was turned back by bad weather.
Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the Home and Tourism Minister of Kerala and, and N. K. Premachandran, the minister for Water Resources, arrived in Thekkady late at night, and they coordinated rescue operations according to press reports. Investigations
Originally, KTDC claimed that there were 74 passengers, but police findings showed 87 passengers; some confusion in the numbers was caused by some survivors leaving the scene without reporting to the police.
The fatalities consist mostly of women, mainly from outside Kerala. The dead included people from Tamil Nadu, Delhi and West Bengal; more than 50 belonged to a group from Karnataka, who had come in a tourist bus to Thekkady as part of a tour of Kerala.
Preliminary reports stated that the accident occurred when a large number of passengers rushed to one side of the boat to see a herd of bison which emerged from the forest. The sudden movement caused the boat to capsize, and all of the passengers were thrown into the water.
Later, this initial report was challenged when some of the rescued tourists reported structural problems with the boat, saying that it was tilted throughout the trip, for about 30 minutes. Then at one point the boat took a sharp turn, overturned and capsized.
The boat was owned and operated by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation. The government has been blamed for not privatizing these boats, for not enforcing safety precautions and for not having efficient disaster recovery plans. The crew of the boat, driver and helper escaped the incident. The passengers were not provided a life jacket before the trip, and there were no lifeguards.
The Pioneer newspaper of Dehli reported "widespread complaints" against both Kerala Government and KTDC "trying to absolve them of the guilt by putting the entire blame on the boat employees." The Crime Branch’s probe report blamed the incident on a combination of driver negligence and overloading. Aftermath
On October 2, it was announced that the government would pay the expenses for sending the bodies of the deceased to their home states and that Rs 5 lakhs would be provided to the next kin of each of the dead in the accident. The Government of Kerala ordered a judicial inquiry into the boat tragedy.
Questioned at the scene on Monday October 5, helmsman Victor Samuel (alias Betty) attributed the incident to the sudden movement of tourists, but fellow crew member Aneesh (also written Anish) pointed out the overloading of the upper deck. Preliminary inquiries revealed that the boat was overloaded, with 12 more than its capacity of 75. The Crime Branch determined that when Samuel "suddenly turned the boat to the right, after the tourists sighted the wild animals”; it had contributed to the incident. Superintendent of Police (Crime Branch) PA Wilson said that "the unwarranted act of driver Victor Samuel swerving the boat while at high speed caused the tragedy". The Crime Branch did not make a final report, pending further questioning of survivors, but Samuel and Aneesh were arrested, to be taken before the Magistrate Court at Peerumade. Sameul has been charged with "causing death unintentionally."
Also under consideration was the possibility raised by reports that the boat tilted to one side due to a structural imbalance. The police stated that the Jalakanyaka, which was recovered and brought to the dock in Thekkady, "had inherent problems". A careful forensic examination was scheduled to begin. Criticism
Oommen Chandy, Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly, criticized the ongoing Crime Branch probe, alleging an attempt to make the steersman a scapegoat. "An attempt is on to put the blame and responsibility of the accident on the steersman," Chandy said.
Chandy told reporters that, instead of a judicial probe, the government should appoint an expert committee headed by a judicial officer.
He urged Chairman Cherian Philip to consider quitting his post. "Instead of supervising the rescue operations at Thekkady, Philip chose to be part of 'Human Chain', a political function of CPI-M, he said.
The Decclan Herald said that the accident was "a result of sheer negligence", and the Express Buzz said it was "faulty from the start", with excess passengers on unsecured plastic chairs.
Other criticisms include (1) lack of disaster recovery planning and procedures for all departments; and (2) refusal to privatize and insure tourist boats with proper government oversight. Subsequent safety concerns
At a meeting on 5 October, state Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan announced several new safety measures: safety checks for tourist boats, mandatory life jackets for those under 15 and for those over 15 who do not supply a valid reason, lifeguards and rescue boats in proportion to the number of passengers. – Courtesy Wikipedia
We walked up to parking area, captured some pictures and left the place around 9.30 am and reached the hotel in 10 minutes. After having the breakfast, we packed our baggage, checked-out and left for Munnar at 11 am. The distance to be covered was 110 kms and the road condition was undoubtedly good all the way, though a single road. The weather was blended with mist, rain and sunshine and the view of the nature was really a treat to eyes. We found lot of waterfalls on the way with abundant flow of water, and number of locations we stopped for photography.
We reached our pre-booked home stay around 2 pm. Though no restaurant was there, the choices are plenty right across the road. The home stay was run by an elderly couple, assured the best hospitality.
Well, after keeping the baggage inside the room we walked across the road and had great Kerala fish curry meals at a restaurant. Later we came back to the room; the cold and rainy weather made us lazy and forced to remain indoors. As we had booked for three nights at Munnar there was no necessity to rush up to places and attractions. We always carry an electric kettle, tea bags and coffee during our travel. In the evening I went out and bought some hot bajjis, vadas and bondas from a stall (Thattu Kada) opposite; meantime my wife prepared the tea and waiting for me. Ha ha!!! Great combination of snacks and tea. Rest of the time till dinner I was busy transferring the captured images from the camera to the laptop. We went out for the dinner around 8 pm and came back in an hour and went to bed.