A trip away from the city after months of lockdown turned tragic as a boat capsized at Keenjhar Lake in Thatta district on Monday, leaving 10 picknickers dead.
The motorboat was ferrying 10 women and three children, along with the boatman, from the banks of the lake to the shrine on Noori Jam Tamachi at the lake's centre.
According to Thatta deputy commissioner Usman Tanveer, the boat overturned because it was overloaded past the permitted capacity, while strong winds also led to the accident."
While all 14 people onboard fell into the lake, three of the picknickers were rescued. The boatman, Abdul Jabbar, initially managed to escape from the lake, but was later arrested by the police.
The bodies of the deceased were retrieved from the lake by local divers.
According to the police, the bereaved families, belonging to Mehmoodabad, Karachi, had arrived to the lake in a bus.
The deceased included 21-year-old Urooj, daughter of Usman Ghani, along with her sisters Aman, 11, Aeza, 10, and Maham, who was only 18 months old. Three other sisters, identified as 21-year-old Shazia Yousuf, 21-year-old Alisha and 20-year-old Sadia, also drowned to death, along with Hiba, 40, Uzma Amir, 25, and Musarrat Asif, 24.
The bodies of the drowned women were taken to the Makli taluka hospital and later shifted to Karachi.
Meanwhile, Maheen, Rasheedan and Rubina were rescued and taken to safety.
The lake is a popular tourism spot, attracting most of its visitors from the provincial capital, who often make their way there on day trips.
Visitors often complain that the boatmen do not provide them with life jackets and the boats are filled visibly beyond their capacity, besides being poorly maintained.
Tourism at the lake, where no lifeguards have been deployed either, operates under the Sindh Culture and Tourism Department
Taking notice of the incident, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah directed the Thatta DC to submit a detailed report on the matter.
"How did the incident occur? Where were the rescue teams and boats when this boat capsized?" he asked, adding that the loss of life was a matter of great distress. Expressing deep regret, he directed the relevant authorities to extend all possible assistance to the grieving families.
Meanwhile, Sindh chief secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah also asked the DC to offer complete cooperation to the bereaved families, further ordering him to take action if anyone was found to be responsible for the tragedy.
While the boatman has been arrested, no case was registered until the filing of this report.
In a similar incident in Thatta in December, 2017, as many as 21 devotees visiting a local shrine drowned while crossing the Indus River in a boat. Those who lost their lives in the previous incident also hailed from Karachi.
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