Kerala's marine hub lacks rescue service for fishermen
Alappuzha (Kerala), Sep 7: Despite being the district with the longest coastline in Kerala and serving as the hub of the marine industry, Alappuzha suffers from lack of rescue facilities for fishermen stranded on the seas.
This became evident when 27 fishing boats were stranded on the high seas on Wednesday following a storm surge.
''Hundreds of fishermen had no option except prayers to save their lives. If there were proper facilities, they would not have been stranded in the sea for hours,'' commented a fisherman.
Presently, there was only a temporary mechanism of marine enforcement in the district which functioned only during the period when trawling was banned.
According to the 2001 census, there were 1,15,275 fishermen in the district. Yet, there was no full-fledged rescue infrastructure for them.
''We feel totally unsafe in the hands of State Port or Fisheries Departments. The mission of the Port Department is just to renew the licence of fishing boats and issue weather reports.
''On Wednesday, the department totally failed to caution fishermen about the coming calamity,'' complained one fisherman.
However, the Port Department said it did not get any proper information from the Meteorological Department located in Chennai.
According to the standard procedure, once an 'SOS' was received, the first action of the administration was to make arrangements to conduct a search in the deep seas. Usually, a tugboat is used to save the lives of fishermen and their boats.
The district administration also generally sought the assistance of the Coast Guard and Marine Enforcement in Kochi.
However, a district official said there were 'some legal hurdles' in getting help from the Coast Guard and Marine Enforcement, which caused a huge delay.
For instance, on Wednesday, while the district administration received the SOS in early morning, Coast Guard helicopters arrived only around noon.
Also, the district administration had to depend on the Fisheries Department's boat at Neendakara in neighbouring Kollam District for search purpose.This boat was also unable to overcome the giant waves and storms such as the one on Wednesday.
Following the storm surge, almost all fishing boats had been anchored as the fishermen were afraid to venture far. They were all stressing the need for the district to have modern facilities for rescue operations.