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Kerala to ensure houseboat safety

Posted on Jan 27, 09:34PM | IANS

Kerala will step up security checks on houseboats and jetties, a minister said Sunday, a day after four people were drowned in the Vembanad Lake here after a boat capsized due to overloading.

A complete check on the safety of each and every houseboat will be done, state Minister for Ports K. Babu told IANS after a meeting with top officials.

"My department will come out with a list of new boat jetties (to check overcrowding at boarding points)," he said.

"The checking will begin tomorrow (Monday) and it has also been decided to conduct a training camp for both houseboat owners and those who work on these boats," Babu said.

Four tourists - two women and two childern from Tamil Nadu were drowned in the Vembanad lake Saturday after their boat capsized due to overloading.

Alappuzha often referred to as Venice of the East has the largest number of houseboats in the state, with many having up to five bedrooms. Over 650 of them operate in the Vembanad lake alone.

"See, the biggest deficiency that we face here is that we have just 20 jetties and hence there is always a crowding. One has to get on to one boat to enter the other boat," said houseboat owner Tomy Pulikattil.

"In the interest and safety one way out is to have a few more boarding points in a few other locations here," Pulikattil, who owns more than a dozen of them, said.

"The chief minister (Oomen Chandy) has called for a meeting on this issue on Feb 1 and that day we will come out with specific guidelines and our only concern is safety of the tourists," Babu said.