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11 die after boat capsize in sea off Beruwala

At least eleven people were killed including women and children due to drowning yesterday morning after the over loaded trawler they were travelling in capsized in the seas off Beruwala.

The victims were heading back towards the Bandarawatte Church in a procession of trawlers from Beruwela during the annual feast there Parish Priest of Phillip Neri Church, Katukurunda, Fr. Lawrence Ramanayake said.

The identity of the victims had not been established yet and their bodies had been kept at the mortuaries of Kalutara and Beruwala hospitals.

A spokesman for the Navy Lt. Commander Chaminda Walakuluge said that the trawlers were sailing about three kilometers away from the shore and none of the passengers was wearing life jackets.

He said Navy had not been informed about this trip and if so some of the deaths could have been averted as it would have provided an escort to the flotilla.

Navy divers assisted by fellow passengers in other vessels conducted the rescue operation.

On being informed of the tragedy, navy rushed five dvoras to the area to search for any survivors, while the Air Force also deployed a helicopter to assist in rescue operations.

"Other fishing boats and volunteers have been able to rescue 32 people, but we still do not have a count on the number of people on board," a police officer said. He said searches by navy boats as well as aircraft were hampered by heavy winds and rain.

Sunday’s boat parade came amid a warning to fishing communities from the meteorological department of winds up to 80 kilometres an hour.

Sunday’s tragedy was the worst boat disaster since June 2013 when 54 fishermen were killed after several boats capsized during a freak storm in the same area, according to sources.