Afloat on water, 3 tourists die in houseboat blaze in Dal Lake
Several structures destroyed; LG expresses grief at loss of lives
Srinagar: Three tourists from Bangladesh were charred to death in a major nocturnal blaze in a houseboat on the Dal Lake on Saturday, officials here said.
The tourists’ bodies were retrieved from the debris of the gutted houseboats near Ghat 9 on the lake, the officials said.
Five opulent houseboats and an equal number of wooden huts were reduced to ashes in the blaze, which, according to the locals living in the vicinity, started around 2:15 am during the preceding night.
Three tourists who were staying in a houseboat named Safeena were charred to death. They have been identified as Mohammad Moinud, Anindya Kawshal and Das Gupta, all from Bangladesh.
Eight other people including two children were rescued through collaborative efforts of the police, State Disaster Response Force, Tourist Police, Fire and Emergency Services, and locals, a police spokesman said.
He said an investigation into the incident has been initiated and a report filed at RM Bagh police station.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known, the officials said. They said preliminary investigations suggested that the fire broke out in one of the houseboats in the early hours due to malfunctioning of a heating appliance, and soon engulfed four other houseboats anchored nearby.
The houseboats damaged in the fire are Safeena, Sabreena, Young Gulshan, Lala Rukh and Khar Palace belonging to Ghulam Rasool Kanna, Khazir Mohammad and Mohammad Syed Khar.
A senior police official told ‘Kashmir Images’ that the dead bodies of three Bangladeshi visitors will be dispatched to their native place after completing all medico-legal formalities.
“The three visitors from Bangladesh could not be saved in a timely manner, and it all happened because of some misunderstanding as the houseboat owners believed that all of the guests had been safely evacuated. However, it was only after the charred remains of three bodies were recovered from the wreckage of the destroyed houseboat that we came to know that they had died,” said a local, wishing anonymity.
The officials also said property worth crores of rupees were destroyed in the fire.
This was the second major fire incident involving houseboats that are anchored on the Dal and the Nigeen lakes. In April 2022, seven houseboats were gutted in a devastating fire on Nigeen Lake, mostly popular among foreign tourists, on the outskirts of the city. However, no one was hurt in the incident.
Expressing his anguish, Lt Governor Manoj Sinha said, “I am deeply pained by the loss of lives due to the unfortunate fire incident at Dal Lake, Srinagar. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. I have directed the District Administration to provide all necessary assistance to the affected persons.”
Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Aijaz and senior Tourism department officials visited the scene of the blaze on the Dal Lake and assured all possible help in rebuilding the damaged houseboats, the officials said.
The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) also expressed its grief over the fire incident and said, “It is indeed a great loss to the heritage houseboat population.”
Javid Ahmad Tenga, the KCCI president, in a statement urged the LG-led administration to assess the losses and extend the necessary moral and monetary compensation to the victims on a war footing to ensure their rehabilitation.
It also demanded quick permission for the reconstruction of the gutted houseboats and for ensuring supply of the required quantity of timber at the earliest.
A local, probably a stakeholder, walks amid the debris of a gutted houseboat as firefighters are busy doing their job to ensure that no more damage is done. Pictures by Javed Khan