One fisherman dies, another goes missing as four boats capsize near Vizhinjam harbour

There were 17 fishermen in the boats and four of them swam to safety, while eight were rescued by the Coast Guard and Coastal Police.
A Coast Guard boat searching for the missing fishermen near Vizhinjam harbour | B P DEEPU
A Coast Guard boat searching for the missing fishermen near Vizhinjam harbour | B P DEEPU

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Davidson, 55, tried his best to claw on to the rubber floating ring thrown to him by the Coast Guard officials who were rushed in to conduct rescue operations after four fishing boats capsized near the mouth of the Vizhinjam harbour on Tuesday night. The humongous waves, howling wind and cascading darkness were hampering the rescue work and finally the infirm fisherman, who was injured after falling under the boat which crashed against the breakwater and capsized, was swept away by a strong wave.

The body of the Poonthura native was recovered from Adimalathura on Wednesday morning. Davidson was one of the fisherman whose body was recovered while the fate of two missing men, Joseph and Xavier, is yet unknown. Joseph hailed from Poonthura, while Xavier was from Kottappuram. The mishap occurred when the fishers were trying to dock in the harbour after rough sea and heavy winds forced them to return early. The fishermen and the Coast Guard officials said their chances of survival were slim.

As many as six boats had ventured into the sea from various fishing hamlets by around 4pm and the disaster struck when they were hastily making a retreat and attempting to dock at Vizhinjam harbour, which they thought would pose no threat. As the boats approached the mouth of the harbour situated between two breakwaters, the boats found it almost impossible to cruise ahead due to heavy winds and strong waves. About four of them crashed against the breakwater and capsized. As many as 19 people were on board of which six were rescued from the sea by the Coast Guard, while the rest swam to safety.

Coastal Police official Elias P George said heavy rain accompanied by strong wind made rescue operations difficult.” The sea was very rough. It was even difficult for the Coast Guard’s bigger boat to move beyond the mouth of the harbour. The rescue operation took place in darkness and the only option we had was go use commando torches,” he said.

The Coastal Police said the fishermen had gone to the sea despite a ban put in place by the administration. But the fishermen said they had not received any clear-cut instructions in this regard. One of the fishermen, who was with Joseph in the boat, said they had shed all the clothes before falling into the sea. “He still had his shirt on as he could not remove it. Having any clothes while swimming would hamper the chances of making it to the shore,” the fisherman said. Transport Minister Antony Raju and Minister for Fisheries Saji Cherian were among those who visited the place to oversee the rescue activities.

The sea was so violent that even the tug deployed for rescue work immediately after the accident found it difficult to navigate and had to be pulled back. It was the daring operation jointly launched by the Coast Guard and the Coastal Police that saved precious lives after the mishap. Equally valuable was the service of 12 coastal wardens, who have been part of the Coastal Police on a contract basis. The Coast Guard has deployed two boats and a dornier aircraft to locate the missing persons. 

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The New Indian Express