By Express News Service
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A large number of fishermen from the coastal villages in Thiruvananthapuram district have gone missing at sea, triggering panic and anger along the coast. As many as 13 fishermen in Thiruvananthapuram district, who went missing in the sea, reached back safe.
Though the district administration put the number of missing men at 150, the Thiruvananthapuram Archdiocese and the local people say as many as 300 men and 79 boats are missing. The missing men belong to Poonthura, Vizhinjam, Adimalathura, Poovar, Paruthiyoor and Thumba.
Though the Navy and Air Force dispatched aircraft and ships, the weather conditions and rough sea prevented them from search and rescue operations. Four ships of the Indian Navy and two ships of the Coast Guard have already been deployed for the rescue operations. Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma, who visited the coastal areas on Thursday evening, said all efforts are being made to trace them, but inclement weather is making the job difficult. “Ships have been dispatched to the area. No effort will be spared to rescue the men,” she said.
District Collector K Vasuki said the Navy and the IAF have dispatched ships and planes to the area, and search and rescue operations would be in full swing by Thursday night. However, local people and the Church are blaming the authorities for failing to take prompt and effective rescue measures. “The men were missing since morning. The government machinery has totally failed in locating them,” Fr Eugene Pereira, Vicar General, Latin Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram, said.
According to Fr Eugene, 276 men and 79 boats that left Poonthura, Vizhinjam, Adimalathura, Poovar, Paruthiyoor and Thumba are missing. Thirty boats and 130 men had gone to sea from Poonthura alone. Twenty boats and around 80 men are missing from Vizhinjam. Eight boats from Adimalathura, six boats from Poovar and four each from Paruthiyoor and Thumba are also missing, he said. “Till now, the Coast Guard has managed to rescue only one man from Thumba. Another fisherman, stranded in a boat six nautical miles off Vizhinjam, has been repeatedly sending SOS using his mobile. Nothing has been done till now to save him,” he said.
Navy deploys 4 vessels
Kochi: The Navy has deployed four ships for the search and rescue of fishing boats and a Marine Engineering vessel which reportedly went missing at sea near Vizhinjam. In a statement, the Southern Naval Command (SNC), Kochi, said the ships Shardul, Nireekshak, Kabra and Kalpeni and two aircraft based in Kochi were deployed on Thursday for the search and rescue of six fishing boats and the marine vessel, following a request from the District Collector, Thiruvananthapuram. “The ships and aircraft will conduct search and rescue operations in the area and continue to be stationed at sea for any assistance,” the statement said.
By Thursday evening, the IAF had two reconnaissance aircraft with crew on stand-by in Thiruvananthapuram, and two additional search and rescue helicopters were ready for search and rescue operations. Owing to the adverse weather situation, the search and rescue operations were hampered, an IAF officer said.
The Coast Guard rescued a 60-year-old fisherman, whose boat had capsized at sea. Varghese, hailing from Poonthura, was found floating when an interceptor boat of Coast Guard approached the area. He was handed over to the coastal police and rushed to a hospital. “The fisherman’s small boat had capsized in the tropical cyclone ‘Ockhi’ and he was found floating when the rescue team approached him. The interceptor boat was on a day-long rescue operation and returned to the coast by 6 pm owing to low visibility in the night. The rescue operations will continue on Friday morning,” a defence spokesperson said. Four ships of Indian Navy and two ships of the Coast Guard have been already deployed for the rescue operations. A Coast Guard helicopter is expected to operate from Alappuzha by the early hours of Friday.
‘Padayorukkam’ finale postponed
T’Puram: Unexpected heavy rain and gale wind that lashed the southern coast and the main hinterland turned out to be a dampener for the UDF ‘Padayorukkam’, forcing the organisers to put off the grand finale, including a rally planned on the Shanghumukham beach here on Friday. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, billed as the star speaker for the valedictory of the campaign, has cancelled his two-day visit to the state . The revised programme will be announced later. The stage erected at the beach for the finale was heavily damaged. Security agencies issued a warning not to proceed with the event as there is a forecast of continued rain and cyclone spell.