It is the third time this year, that houseboats have caught fire from the kitchen. Last January, two houseboats had caught fire. In those incidents too, mishandling of cooking gas was the reason behind accidents.
Consumption of liquor aboard by the crew is seen as another reason for recurring accidents. Most of the tourists consume liquor while travelling on the boat. They often share this with the crew. The crew who handle the kitchen in an inebriated state can be careless, said Anandan a boat worker.
Rumor at Finishing point on Wednesday was that the crew members of the ill-fated boats had consumed liquor. It is said that Sherin had gone to sleep after consuming liquor. He had locked the room from inside, and so, the others failed to help him escape.
Last January, a house boat which was anchored at a kayal bund at Kainakary caught fire at night. Luckily, the passengers and workers of the Kerala State Water Transport Department boat which was going to Kottayan noticed the fire and doused it.
Two tourists from Japan and three other workers were inside the boat. But, they had not noticed the fire as fire had erupted in the kitchen portion of the boat.The other accident in January happened in Punnamada Lake. In that accident, there was fire in a houseboat which was anchored on the finishing point. Kitchen and one room of the boat was fully gutted.
Two cooking gas cylinders were found from the boat.The houseboats are constructed using inflammable materials like plastic and ‘panambu’. In most of the boats, cooking gas is used for cooking. The kitchen is a small portion in the back side of the boat.
“Fire extinguisher is fixed in all boats, but most of them does not work properly. It is fixed in the boat just to get the license. Once the license and approval from the Fire and Rescue Service is obtained, it is not checked timely”, said Mathew of Kainakary. More than 800 houseboats are operating in the Alappuzha backwaters.
Most of it is anchored in kayal land at night.If a fire breaks out in a boat the Fire and Rescue Service personnel will not reach the spot immediately, said Sasikumar a boat worker.
The Fire and Rescue Services assistant divisional officer Arunkumar said that the Department has two speed boats and a float pump to douse the fire on houseboats. But to reach the houseboat which is anchored inside the lake will take some time.