THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Prayers, punctuated now and again by the sound of wailing, rang out at the St Antony’s Forane Church, Valiyathura, on Tuesday morning as the local community turned out in strength to bid farewell to Eapachan, one of the 11 fishermen who had gone missing from the cyclone-battered coastal area. Four of the 11 are now accounted for; three returned alive and one - Eapachan - lost his life. It’s been five days since Ockhi struck and the tight-knit community is frantic for news about the remaining seven.
Outside the church, a long, brown-and-grey building facing the sun-lit beach, a young boy wended his way through the crowd distributing blue memorial cards which had a photograph of the deceased, a balding, clean-shaven man of 63. An oft-quoted line from the Gospel of John marked the top corner of the card; “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”
“The 11 men had gone out in three boats; Denny, Gerald, Paul and Byju went in Antony’s boat. Paul and Byju were back safely on Monday night. Seven other men had gone out in two boats belonging to Alphons. Of them, Thankachan returned alive, but Eapachan died,” Suresh Vincent, church secretary, said. Tony Oliver, former councillor of the Valiyathura ward, lists out the seven. “Stephen Gomez, Xavier, Alphons (not related to the boat owner), Victor and Jose: they are yet to be traced.
Their families are desperate,” Oliver said. Valiyathura was the scene of a tragic misunderstanding which has left the fishermen families furious. On Sunday night, the tahsildar reportedly informed the people that all 11 men had been picked up by a ship.
“The church committee immediately conveyed the news to the families and everyone was relieved. The next day at 6 am, somebody came and told us that only Byju and Paul were safe. The others are still missing. This left the people furious and they blockaded the road,” Sudheesh Peter, secretary of the Thiruvananthapuram Social Service Society, the social services arm of the Latin Church here, said.
Inside the church, the service had ended. By 10.40 am, Eapachan was buried.