Midnapore, June 3: Four badly burnt bodies, believed to be of missing Captain P.P. Shelley, his wife and their two children, have been found in the abandoned cargo ship drifting off the Bengal coast.
Only the skulls are intact, officials of the Coast Guard which is handling rescue operations said. Two were found in the captain’s cabin, one on a ladder and a fourth on the devastated upper deck.
On May 30, a blaze had engulfed MV Faiz, which set sail from Yangon for Calcutta loaded with pulses, forcing the crew to dump it. Ten castaways were rescued from the high seas yesterday.
The chief officer of the ship, Rajiv Lahiri, has yet to be traced. Survivors said he jumped off the burning ship without a life jacket but could not make the lifeboat.
Coast Guard officials said it appeared the captain had valiantly arranged for the escape of his crew but failed to save himself, his wife Smitha, nine-year-old son Lubin and four-year-old daughter Nidha.
“The bodies were so badly charred, we found only the skulls. We strongly believe they belong to the captain and his family,” Bengal Coast Guard commandant G. Singh said.
“The chief officer is still missing. The survivors told us he jumped into the sea from the burning vessel but could not catch the life boat.”
Singh said his team, which came upon the bodies during an overnight operation, had not touched the skulls. “It is the duty of police and the ship owner to take possession of the remains,” he said.
The blaze was so big that the engine and other vital machines in the ship ' it belongs to ITP Shipping Company ' have been gutted, he said.
When Coast Guard vessels Chandbibi and Jijabai last night located the ship, abandoned about 225 nautical miles from Haldia, it had drifted 50 nautical miles more. Wisps of smoke were seen coming out of some parts.
The ship is being towed to Calcutta by the MV Atif and is expected to reach tomorrow or the day after. The survivors will be taken to Haldia tomorrow. Search for the missing officer is on.