Nov. 13: At least 47 fishermen are feared drowned and 630 reported missing in the high seas off the Sunderbans and Digha coasts under the impact of the cyclone which moved to Bangladesh near Sagar Island yesterday. The body of a fisherman was recovered near Jambudwip.
Fisheries minister Kironmoy Nanda said at Writers’ Buildings today that 51 fishermen were in six trawlers and four mechanised boats that capsized. Two more trawlers sank near Jambudwip.
As many as 630 fishermen in 63 fishing trawlers have not been traced yet despite a massive search operation launched by the Coast Guard. In all, 70 fishermen were rescued by other boats.
Nanda said two of the 45 trawlers that had taken shelter in a creek in Jambudwip capsized when they were chased out by gun-wielding forest guards. A fisherman, identified as Shishuranjan Das on board the Jyotirmoyee, was killed.
Displeased by the “inhuman” attitude of the forest guards, the fisheries minister said he would report the matter to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
The additional district magistrate of Haldia, Debabrata Pal, who is in charge of the disaster management group, said altogether 400 fishing boats and trawlers had left the Digha coast. “According to our estimate, 10 vessels drowned about 35 km south-east of Digha. The sea is about 80 metres deep there,” he said.
“We are doubtful about the fate of the 47 fishermen as eyewitnesses who were rescued reported seeing them floating in the rough sea,” Nanda said.
Nine of the 10 vessels that drowned have been identified as Makali 1, Makali 2, Khatuna-Zeenat, Baba Lokenath, Ma Dashabhuja, Ma Shitala, Ma Jagadhatri, Ma Kamalnayani and Ma Baglamukhi.
Nanda resented that the weather office could not issue a cyclone warning earlier. He said the meteorological centre’s alert reached the department on Monday, by which time the trawlers had already left.
“The fishermen are totally dependent on transistor radios as we don’t have a wireless network. We want to hold a meeting with weather experts and the Coast Guard on how to improve the storm forecast system,” Nanda said.
The deputy director-general of the meteorological centre at Alipore, R.N. Goldar, said the relief department was notified immediately after the depression was located approaching from the Tamil Nadu coast on Monday morning.
“We are very particular about our warnings to fishermen. We inform the government as soon as there is a development,” he said.
Goldar said a “sudden rise” in wind speed — to about 68 km per hour — off the Digha coast around noon yesterday might have led to the disaster. “It is not always possible to forecast such freak occurrences,” he said.
Voters’ list review
The annual revision of voters’ list will begin tomorrow and continue till December 7, chief electoral officer Sabyasachi Sen said. New voters and those who have shifted residence can include their names in the final electoral rolls, to be published on January 13.