Incident, second in 2 months, leaves fishermen shell-shocked; equipment lost; complaint registered
Historically, the one phenomenon fishermen have always dreaded has been cyclones. Of late though, natural disasters have been eclipsed by man-made ones. On Wednesday night, M. Sundaram, a fisherman from Nethaji Nagar, lost his FRP boat, net and engine after a ship hit his craft.
This is the second such incident in the last two months. On March 16, fisherman T. Anandan of Tiruvottiyur Kuppam, died after a ship hit the boat he was on.
“These days, we are scared of the ships that come to the ports here,” said Sundaram.
According to Sundaram, the incident took place around 11.30 p.m. He, along with two other fishermen who are related to him, S. Bhaskar and T. Elumalai, were waiting for the clock to strike 1, so they could reel in the vanjram fish net that they had cast at 6 p.m.
“The red signal light on our fibre-reinforced plastic boat was working well, so we were not worried. The three of us were talking about the catch of the past few days, when suddenly a ship loomed over us. It hit our boat from behind, and instantly the boat broke,” he said.
At that point, the boat was 11 km from the shore, at a depth of about 16 fathoms.
“I managed to hold on to the broken boat and also caught Elumalai, but Bhaskar was pulled under water. The waves were roiling, as the ship continued to move after hitting us. I thought he was dead, and kept shouting his name. Suddenly, he surfaced and I managed to throw a piece of wood to him. But he was at some distance from us and after some time, the piece of the boat we were holding on to, sank. Elumalai pleaded with me to save him and caught hold of my shirt. I told him that either we would both die or swim to safety together. We managed to remain afloat, when luckily, another boat came by and saved us,” said Sundaram.
M. Ajith, S. Suresh and R. Kuppan, who were in the second boat, pulled the trio out of the sea. “When we heard their cries, we dropped our net and went in the direction of their voices with our torchlight. We didn’t know if Bhaskar was dead or alive when we pulled him out. He finally uttered a few words much later,” said Ajith.
The rescuers called the fishermen’s families to tell them they were safe. By 5 a.m., when they finally arrived on shore, the entire village was waiting for them.
On Thursday, Sundaram’s family was still in shock. His mother and wife broke down when talking about the harrowing ordeal.
“I am indebted for life to Ajith and his colleagues for saving us. It will take at least a month for me to recuperate. Both the Chennai and the Ennore ports have only brought trouble to fisherfolk. The authorities must ensure that ships do not travel at night near the coast,” said a visibly-shaken Sundaram.
Anjappan, president of the fishermen panchayat of Tiruvottiyur KVK Kuppam, said that ships did not use lights and did not bother about fisherfolk in the sea.
“They do not own the sea. Their movement must be restricted so that we can fish in peace,” he said.
Fishermen said that earlier in the day, they had registered a police complaint against an unnamed ship.