Thirteen tourists, including three children, had a miraculous escape when their houseboat caught fire near Pathiramanal Isle in Vembanad Lake in Alappuzha while they were cruising in the backwaters, police said.
As the boat was near the sand bars, the tourists, hailing from Kannur in Kerala, and the staff could jump into the shallow waters and were rescued. Two toddlers were among the passengers.
The double decker houseboat "Oceana" had embarked on the journey from the scenic Kumarakom around noon on Thursday when the fire broke out.
When they reached Pathiramanal area under Muhamma police station limits, two people in the upper deck noticed fire from the kitchen area, according to a News18 report.
The report also adds that although the staff inside the boat tried to use the extinguisher, they could not put out the fire. However, the depth of the water where the houseboat had caught fire was only 5 feet.
According to police, experts are examining what could have triggered the blaze -- a short circuit or a spark from the kitchen.
Prima facie, fire extinguisher was used by the three staff on board the boat. But they could not stop the blaze from spreading and eventually gutting the boat, police said on Friday.
Police said they have sought a report from the boat owner on whether life jackets were available in the vessel.
The tourists told local media that there were no life jackets and it was a miracle they escaped unscathed.
All their belongings were destroyed and they could escape with only the clothes they were wearing, they said.
Meanwhile, Alapuzha District police chief has ordered random checks of houseboats to find out if they had licences and were following all safety norms.
The family and the staff of the boat were rescued by the Water Transport Department.
With PTI inputs