NAGAPATTINAM: The 23 fishermen from the district who survived Cyclone Tauktae’s fury in the Arabian Sea on May 15, returned home on Sunday. They have requested relief for the families of their nine missing colleagues whose boat, however, allegedly capsized.
The fishermen who returned had set sail in the two deep-sea fishing boats, ‘Rakesh - 1’ and ‘Rakesh - 2’. They had a hard time making their return ever since the fateful day.
“We spent three days in the Lakshadweep islands, left from there on May 18 and searched the point where nine of our colleagues in ‘Murugan Thunai’ called us for help for a couple of days. Then, we landed in Cochin on May 21. As our families had wanted to see us soon, we left Cochin for Rameswaram on May 23. We were stuck around Palk Bay from May 25 to May 28 due to heavy rains from Cyclone Yaas. We left Rameshwaram after the Bascule Bridge opened, and we finally got home, “ said S Ravichandran, the owner of ‘Rakesh - 2’.
At least nine fishermen who were onboard ‘Murugan Thunai’ are still missing. The deep-sea fishing boat allegedly capsized in the turbulent Arabian Sea from an approaching Cyclone Tauktae in the wee hours of May 15. ‘Murugan Thunai’ was in the company of ‘Rakesh - 1’ and ‘Rakesh - 2’ till May 15 until the cyclone separated them. ‘Murugan Thunai’ allegedly sustained catastrophic damages and drowned a few nautical miles before reaching Lakshadweep. Search operations to find the missing men are undergoing since then.
The fishermen who landed in Nagapattinam alleged that they were made to wait in Palk Bay in rough weather by the Fisheries department until Pamban Bascule Bridge near Ramanathapuram was opened. It is the only route for vessels travelling towards south India and passing through Palk Strait.
If the vessels cannot get through the Bascule, they have to turn back and circle Sri Lanka, which would translate to thousands of nautical miles.
The Fisheries department said the Pamban Bascule Bridge could not be opened at will. “The Centre controls the Bascule Bridge’s clearance, and multiple departments in the State and the Centre administer it. It opens only once a month. Thus, it took a couple of days to get special clearance for those two boats,” an official said. “We request the State government to provide adequate relief for the grieving families of the fishers on ‘Murugan Thunai’ boat,” said S Muthuvel, a crew member of ‘Rakesh - 1’, who reached Nagai.