Search on for remaining five in the Lakshadweep-bound vessel

Stranded in the sea for almost 14 hours after their dhow (uru in local parlance) capsized, three sailors were rescued off the Ponnani-Parappangadi coast in Malappuram by a fishing boat even as the Indian Coast Guard was conducting night search operations for five others in the ill-fated vessel.

The three survivors, identified as Maria Soosai Antony Prakash, A. Suresh, P. Ramigives, all natives of Tamil Nadu, were currently recovering from extreme exhaustion and exposure at a private hospital in Feroke here. The five lost in the sea are S. Keni, Alex Rapaich, S. Maria Paskar, Xavier Perez, and Jesu Michael.

The dhow, named ‘Arul Seeli’ and registered in Tuticorin in 2006, had left Beypore around 2 p.m. on Friday and was headed for Kavaratti island in Lakshwadeep, Beypore Port authorities said.

Besides the eight-men crew, the 144.4-tonne capacity vessel was carrying building materials, furniture, and cattle.

It was scheduled to touch port at Kavaratti by late evening. “According to initial reports, the incident happened late in the night around 45 nautical miles off the coast. The boat capsized owing to rough sea conditions off the west coast side of the Ponnani-Parappangadi area,” Mohan Das, a senior Beypore Port official, said. Coastal police officials said the incident happened at 1.30 a.m. on Saturday morning and they got a distress call at 3.30 p.m. in the evening from the fishing boat, which had found the three survivors floating in the sea on their lifebuoys.

“From what they told me, they were trying to head back to Beypore after finding the sea too rough for the journey ahead. But water started getting in the boat. They used two pumps to flush the water out, but to no avail. The boat was sinking fast. So all eight had jumped out wearing life jackets. The fishing boat which rescued them was from Alappuzha,” Kozhikode District Collector K.V. Mohan Kumar, who visited the survivors at the hospital late in the evening, told The Hindu.

Coast Guard officials said they got an SOS ‘search and rescue’ call from the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, Mumbai, at 3.34 p.m. and a team had immediately set out. En route, they gathered the information that three survivors had already been found by a fishing vessel and dropped off at Chaliyam. The Coast Guard team had continued to the site of the accident to get on with the search operations.

Search called off

The Coast Guard called off night-search operations due to lack of visibility. Sources said reinforcements were coming from Kochi to start operations at ‘first light.’ Thought they had life jackets, only very few boats were sailing due to Easter holidays, they added.

“One of the survivors, Prakash, said their uru developed a leak. Some 60 nautical miles off the coast, water started surging into the dhow. They used three motors to pump the water out, but to no avail. The boat had already started sinking. So, the eight men bailed out in a lifeboat. Prakash said that when they reached some distance, the lifeboat hit rough weather and capsized. The men got scattered. That is how only three were found by a fishing boat,” Mr. Mohan Kumar said.