As many as four fishing boats sank without a trace after heavy gale and waves pulled the vessels anchored at the Chaliyam estuary into the sea.

Of the twenty-five boats anchored there, one hit the rocks and got completely destroyed and 15 were damaged.

The boats which survived the onslaught of the waves suffered engine damage. Fishing nets were also destroyed.

With the trawl ban in force till July 31, fishermen depended on these small boats to sail through the lean season. At least 40 fishermen depended on each boat for livelihood, sources said.

“The Fisheries Department sent just one hired boat for the rescue operations. The incident happened at 5.30 a.m. and officials came in way past 9 a.m. This is the response we get to our distress calls,” Hamsa Koya K.V., an eyewitness and office-bearer of the Beypore Matsya Thozhilali Vikasana Kshema Sahakarana Sangam, said.

Mr. Koya said the Chaliyam incident affected not only the local fishing community, but also families from Malappuram, Parappangadi, Chethipadi, and Tanur.

“The trawl season is when fishermen work hard to pay off their debts. With their boats destroyed, they have been again drawn into the debt trap. Our estimated loss is about Rs.5 crore. If they had brought more rescue boats they could have saved our boats,” he said.

A government order released on May 25, 2013 by the Ports and Fisheries Department said 21 boats had been hired for sea rescue and patrolling. Of the 21, Kozhikode district was allotted three boats and another two fibre boats.

An official release said the Coast Guard and the Fisheries Department were trying to locate the boats.

District Collector C.A. Latha said free ration would be provided families whose boats had been destroyed. She said a report would be submitted by the Disaster Management Department on the losses sustained in the incident. “Each of these boats destroyed cost between R.50 lakh and Rs.1 crore. Some of these boats were purchased after mortgaging gold ornaments of the family,” Indian Union Muslim League State secretary M.C. Mayin Haji said in a statement.

One dead

An official release said N.P. Faizal, 39, a fishermen died of cardiac arrest amidst the rescue operations at Chaliyam.

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