One fisherman feared drowned, while six others who were stranded in an islet for three days without food and water after their Vallam (country boat) capsized on July 31, were rescued by the Mandapam station of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) on Saturday.
Seven fishermen had ventured into the sea in Vallam, south off Pamban for multi-day fishing on July 28 and they were returning after three days of fishing, when their boat capsized at 10 a.m. on July 31.
While one fisherman went missing after jumping out to the sea, others who were drifted and stranded in the third islet between Danushkodi and Thalaimannar for the past three days were rescued by the ICG personnel and brought to the Mandapam station, near here on Saturday afternoon.
Narrating the horrific experience, A.Royappan (40) one of the rescued fishermen from Thangachimadam said he and others were returning to the shore on July 31, when their boat hit against a protruding iron rod at the Sethu Channel, off Danushkodi, and started sinking after the wooden planks of the boat broke in the impact. They jumped out to the sea in a bid to escape, he said.
It happened around 10 a.m. on July 31 and they were in the waters holding on to water and diesel cans till 5 p.m., before drifting towards the third islet between Danushkodi and Thalaimannar. Only on reaching the islet, they found A.Sesu Arokiyam (30), who jumped out to the sea along with them, missing.
“We were starving for three days and almost fainted when the Coast Guard personnel spotted and rescued us on Saturday morning,” he told The Hindu. While being stranded in the islet, they had nothing to eat, he said. They collected around 30 empty water bottles found washed ashore on the islet and collected the left over water, he said adding “each of us managed to get a spoonful of water to quench our thirsts.”
“We thought we will starve to death when the Coast Guard personnel rescued us,” he said. They gave them water and biscuits at the islet and served them idlis after boarding the hovercraft, he said.
The UK-made Air Cushion Vehicle (ACV) Hovercraft 190 was on a routine sortie when the crew spotted the fishermen stranded in the third islet and rescued them, said Commandant S.Premkumar, Second in Command, ICG Mandapam Station. They were given first aid at the islet and brought to the Mandapam station around 1 pm, he said. After a medical check up and refreshments, they were handed over to the Fisheries department, he said.
Mr U. Arulanandam, President of the Alliance for Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF), visited the rescued fishermen and commended the ICG for the timely help. The conditions of the fishermen would have turned worse had the ICG not spotted and rescued them, he said.
Mr A. Eathe Father, owner of the boat said he had lost the boat worth about Rs seven lakh and fishing nets worth Rs seven lakh and appealed to the government for compensation. The other rescued fishermen were identified as A.David (45), N.Sagayaraj (30), A.Arkis (32), A.Sagayaraj (28) and S.Devesagayam (26).