Joseph (57) of Doli Mandiram, Kovilthottam at Chavara near Kollam, one of the two survivors in the ship-boat collision off Chertala coast in Alappuzha, is a bit shaken.
Lying at one of the beds in the casualty of Alappuzha Medical College Hospital at Vandanam near here on Thursday, he recalled that only by grace of God he had survived. “We were fishing in our boat ‘Don 1’ at 13-14 kms off Chertala coast at around 12.50 a.m. on Thursday. We were waiting for the next catch by casting the net when suddenly the ship steered from its usual route and approached to eastern side and collided with the boat in its middle portion. The boat was tossed around and it turned turtle. Out of the seven in the boat, only I and Michael survived as we were thrown out of the boat, while others were trapped inside,” he said.
According to Joseph, there were at least 30 boats or so fishing in the nearby area. “Suddenly after the ship hit us, there were cries for help all around. I was left alone, but still could hear the cries of others, coming from the western side. I took hold of a life buoy and was in the waters for more than three quarters of an hour. One of the boats fishing at some distance near our boat came near us as our wireless stopped and there was no light from our boat,” he said.
The search light of the rescue boat, ‘Thejas’ fell on to the body of Mr. Joseph in the waters. They gave him a rope and ask him to hold it tightly. “I was very tired when I reached the top of the boat. I vomited a lot of water and then fell almost unconscious,” he recalled.
It was from those in Thejas boat that Mr. Joseph came to know that the ship that hit them was an oil tanker. “But there was no reason for the ship to come that way,” says Mr. Joseph who had been out in the seas fishing for three decades now.
The team of seven in ‘Don 1’ set out from Needakara on Monday morning and were scheduled to come back there by Friday evening. Another survivor, Michael (55) of Johny Bhavan, Mekkad in Panmana near Chavara says he clung on to a log as soon as he was tossed around when the ship hit the boat. “I was clinging on to it for sometime when my friend, Xavier, who did not know swimming cried for helping him. I threw him the log and he clung on to it. I meanwhile got another log to clung on. Later a boat came and rescued me, but they could get the dead body of Xavier only,” he said.
Mr. Michael alleged that as per the fishermen in near by boats, the ship cut off its light when it hit the boat and fled the area at a high speed.