Alappuzha (Kerala): Two fishermen were killed, two injured and three missing after a mysterious ship collided with a fishing boat early Thursday in the sea off Kerala, provoking outrage in the community coming as it does barely two weeks after two men were shot dead by Italian Marines.
State Fisheries Minister K. Babu said: “Our law enforcing agencies are hunting for the the ship that hit the fishing boat. From what we have been able to gather, the incident took place close to 2 a.m. Thursday.”
The fishing boat had left from Kollam, 70 km from here, for deep sea fishing Sunday with seven fishermen on board. The dead have been identified as Xavier and Justin, those missing are Cleetus, Santhosh and Babychen. The two injured, Michael and Joseph, have been admitted to hospital and are out of danger.
Dominic Antony, the owner of the fishing boat, said: “My boat was anchored, the ship came and hit my boat. This is what I could gather from one of the rescued fishermen.”
Michael, who was injured, recalled the incident: “Everything happened in few minutes and we were thrown away. While I managed to swim in the waters, Xavier held on to my hands for sometime, then I could not locate him. I could not see the ship and it was totally dark. I was told by others that the ship appeared to be a big one and was a cargo freighter. They did not sound any warning signs.”
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was amongst those who expressed grief at the accident, described as a hit and run in the deep seas.
A furious P. Peter, who heads the fishermen’s union Kerala Swathantra Matsya Thozhilali, said law enforcement agencies do nothing but bring back the dead fishermen from the deep seas.
The agencies responsible for coastal security include the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and the Marine Enforcement Unit. “If they were doing their job, then why is the ship that banged on the boat still untraced?” Peter said.
According to Peter, fishermen can go up to 200 nautical miles from the shore but these ships now travel as close as 15 to 20 nautical miles from the coast.
Communist Party of India (CPI) leader T.J. Anjilose, who belongs to the area, said this was the 15th incident in three months of ships hitting boats in the seas off Kerala. “The central and state governments say after each accident that coastal security would be improved but it never happens,” Anjilose said.
Charles George, another veteran trade union leader based in Kochi, said the functioning of the law enforcement agencies was appallingly poor. “It has been many hours since this tragic incident and we want to find out what the Mumbai based Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre is doing… We are told a Dornier aircraft of the navy in the morning around 6.45 a.m did a search for the ship but that also did not yield any result.”
On Feb 15, two Italian marines, Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone — security officials on board the Italian ship Enrica Lexie — were arrested for gunning down two Indian fishermen after mistaking them to be pirates.