After being left stranded in the sea by Somali pirates, Mohammed Qarda Baksh from Karachi and 15 fellow fishermen, two from Pakistan and 13 from Iran, on board boat ‘Al Husaini’ had lost all hopes of reaching the shores alive, but almost miraculously they spotted the Indian Coast Guard Dornier and were rescued within hours.
“We salute the Government of India and Indian Coast Guard and for saving us,” said Baksh, describing the ordeal in the high seas after being brought to Kochi on Tuesday.
The fishing boat had left the Kanraka/Chahbhar port in Iran on May 16 and was captured by pirates reportedly off Socotra.
“They stayed on our boat, finished our food and even bathed using water kept for drinking. On June 10, they abandoned us after almost finishing all the food and fuel and escaped on another boat. We had just rice and little wheat. There were just three barrels of water.
“Our engine too began to show signs of trouble. We kept signaling to several merchant navy ships to help us. One ship came close and when we narrated our plight, they advised us to alert the Indian Coast Guard,” Baksh said.
According to the fishermen, they alerted the Indian Coast Guard for assistance on June 21.
The vessel had gradually drifted into Indian waters. They were rescued about 250 nautical miles off Lakshadweep islands. CG ship Varuna undertook the life-saving mission.
The fishermen will be deported to their home countries after verification and interrogation by Indian security agencies.
“We have already contacted the consulates of their countries as they don’t possess any document to prove their identity.
“They are being interrogated by Indian security agencies, including the police and the Intelligence Bureau,” said Indian Coast Guard DIG T K S Chandran.
Chandran said the rescue operation was a difficult task due to bad weather condition. “Besides, towing the 25m fishing boat for 365 nautical miles was also not an easy job,” he said.
It is the second consecutive rescue operation this month by ICGS Varuna, the previous one being rescue of 22 crew members of merchant vessel Asian Express on June 12.