NAGAPATTINAM: Nine fishermen, including seven from the district, went missing after their boat allegedly capsized in the Arabian Sea from the the turbulence caused by approaching Cyclone Tauktae on Saturday.
The fishermen led by the boat owner, Manikandan of Samanthampettai, were rushing towards the shore amid rough weather conditions after receiving a storm alert around 3.00 am. The turbulence at sea, however, overturned the boat and the men into the waters.
"A group of deep-sea boats from Nagapattinam district were fishing next to each other in the Arabian Sea. They were returning together to the shore after receiving the storm alert. The fishers in another gillnetter-longliner boat, based in Ariyanatu Theru, saw the Samanthampettai boat being overturned by a huge wave. We received this information from them in the afternoon. We request to rescue the stranded fishers in the sea," said E Vijayan, a fisher representative from Samanthampettai.
According to sources, the Samanthampettai-based boat departed from Cochin fishing harbor on April 29.
The crew included I Manikandan (25), his brother Manivel (23), and their father Edumban (55) -- all from Samanthampettai. There were also B Dinesh (33) of Nagore, C Elanchezhiyan (26) of Moovalur, K Praveen (35) of Akkaraipettai, and Murthi (30) of Vanagiri. C Murugan (40) of Killai in Cuddalore district and another unidentified fisher was also among the crew. They had been fishing in the Arabian Sea from about 300 nautical miles for two weeks.
It is uncertain if the missing fishermen wore their 'personal flotation devices' (life jackets) when their vessel capsized. Other boats allegedly could not find the fishers in the dark and rough sea.
According to the officials, the fishers in the other boat who allegedly saw the overturn of Samanthampettai boat have landed at Amini Island of Lakshadweep for temporary relief.
The distraught families and friends of the missing fishermen met Nagapattinam District Collector Praveen P Nair and submitted a petition to rescue the stranded men. The Collector has assured them about requesting for a search and rescue operation through the Tamil Nadu government.
An official from the Fisheries department in Nagapattinam said, "We have alerted the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre Mumbai (MRCC). A joint search operation by the armed forces would be sought for and initiated. Searching in rough weather with a cyclone around could be extremely challenging. We hope for the best."
The trips of 'deep-sea fishers' in the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea can last for up to a month. They are largely unaware of the developments at the shore unless they are informed through advanced communication equipment in the boats.