Srinagar, November 11, 2023: As per media reports, three foreign tourists lost their lives in the major fire incident in famous Dal Lake on Sunday.
A police spokesman said the three tourists who lost their lives are Anindaya Kowshal, Mohammad Moinud and a third person identified as one Das Gupta—all from Bangladesh. They were staying on the houseboat Safeena, which was gutted in the blaze.
According to the news published in The Tribune with PTI inputs, the tourists’ bodies were retrieved from the debris of the gutted houseboats near ‘Ghat 9’ on the lake, a popular attraction for people visiting Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital, the officials said.
The officials said DNA samples were taken from the victims to establish their identities, adding one of them was a woman, according to the records maintained by the houseboat operators.
The bodies will be handed over to the family members only after matching the DNA, the officials said.
Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha condoled the deaths.
Eight people were rescued through collaborative efforts of the Srinagar Police, State Disaster Response Force, Tourist Police, Fire and Emergency Services, and locals, the police spokesman said.
Police said an investigation into the incident has been initiated and a report filed at RM Bagh police station.
The cause of the fire, which engulfed five houseboats and as many huts attached to those, 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.
Giving details, the police spokesman said, “The conflagration quickly spread and engulfed five houseboats—Safeena, Sabreena, Young Gulshan, Lala Rukh and Khar Palace. Seven residential huts and neighbouring houses in the vicinity were also gutted in the blaze.”
Property worth crores of rupees were destroyed in the fire that broke out around 5.15 am, the officials said.
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 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 Lt Governor-led Jammu and Kashmir administration to assess the losses and extend the necessary moral and monetary compensation to the victims on a war footing to ensure their rehabilitation.