12 Indian fishermen survive after midsea collision of their boat with barge

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MADURAI: Twelve fishermen, who survived miraculously after their boat collided with a barge and sank in midsea on September 11, returned to Thoothoor coastal village in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari on Saturday morning and narrated their harrowing experience.
“For a second, we breathed a sigh of relief avoiding a collision with a huge tugboat by a whisker. But before we realised what was happening, the barge the tug was towing mowed us down, sinking our boat in minutes,” said Sherin Anto, master of the fishing boat St Antony that sank 160 nautical miles off Kanyakumari Coast on September 11.
The boat belonging to A Byju of Thoothoor sailed from Thengapattanam fishing harbour in Kanyakumari district on August 7. The 12-member crew comprised two men from Assam, one from Kerala and the rest from Tamil Nadu –seven from Kanyakumari district and two from Cuddalore district.
The deep sea fishing vessel was almost completing fishing. The fishermen were pulling the last of the hook and line from the sea around 3.40am on September 11 when they encountered the tugboat at very close proximity.
“It had a single headlight, and we thought it to be another fishing boat. Only when the vessel captain switched on all the lights after seeing our lights did we realise that we were on a collision course. We steered away on our port side and just missed it. But the massive barge the tug hauling mowed us down like a bulldozer,” said Sherin who hails from Eraviputhenthurai village in Kanyakumari district.
“The tug did not even stop. It continued with the barge. As our boat began to tilt dangerously and taking water, we grabbed the tug boat ropes connecting the barge and climbed on the moving barge,” said fisherman S A Suresh from Poothurai village.
The fishermen with bleeding injuries and fatigue starved for the next 24 hours till the tug reached the Maldives. The tug operators found them and handed them over to the Maldivian Coast Guard. They were lodged in a prison for illegal entry into the country.
The fishermen explained the collision and their mid-sea survival. “Fortunately, the authorities in the Maldives believed what we told them and handed us over to the Indian high commission there,” said Sherin.
The embassy officials organized their passage and the fishermen reached Mumbai on Friday and landed in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday night. “I am glad all of us are alive by divine providence after what had happened to us midsea,” he added.
They approached the coastal security group (marine) police station at Colachel with their complaint on Saturday. “We are filing a formal complaint and appealing to the marine police to collect the details of the tugboat and barge involved in the collision. We will approach the Director General of Shipping with those details for relief,” said Meenavar Orunginaippu Sangam secretary Johnson Charles.



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