Weatherman’s silence baffles fishermen on city coast

Every day, it’s with high hopes that they set out to sea, often managing to return with their daily bread. But the last one week, it’s with shattered hopes, battered boats and bruised bodies that they returned. Hanging onto their oars for dear life, on a constant prayer and with little to take home.

The fishermen of the Thiruvananthapuram coast are uneasy. Men losing lives in the sea is not a new incident here, but the manner in which the sea claimed two of them, with the fate of one more still unknown, the past five days have suddenly pushed them into swirling waves of panic. Even the slightest change in weather now makes them insecure and over the last two days, less than 10 per cent of them have ventured out onto the sea. The early hours of February 14 remain a nightmare to most.

Strong winds

“I have been going out to the sea for the past 40 years. Such strong winds, lifting our anchors, each weighing nearly 20 kg, from the depths and playing with them as if they were kites, are something new,” says Peter, 62, at Kochuthoppu, near Valiathura.

“It is baffling that the weather people, who usually alert us in case of inclement weather, were silent this time. If we had some inkling that the sea would be rough, we would not have taken the risk,” says Rajan, 53, who was among those lucky to make it back alive.

According to M. Sreekandan, Assistant Director (Fisheries), Fisheries Station, Vizhinjam, there was no forecast at all from the India Meteorological Department on Wednesday last. “There was one message the next day, but by then, three persons had already gone missing. The absence of a warning message on Wednesday saw 37 fishermen from the Thiruvananthapuram coast alone being caught in strong winds, the kinds of which are rarely seen here. Out of these, 35 were rescued, while one more went missing the next day,” he told The Hindu.

While two families have lost their sole breadwinners, with another waiting in fear on the fate of theirs, the entire coast is now suffering the consequences. With fishermen nervous about going out to fish, daily livelihood is hit.

“We were told about several forecast systems being put in place after the 2004 tsunami. Several crores of rupees were spent too, according to the election speeches made here. What is the use if those can’t save our lives?” asks Rajan.