Despite publicly issued warnings from Kerala and Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers and the Coast Guard to fishermen and boats not to venture into certain parts of the Arabian Sea from 4th October onwards, and to return to the coast before October 5 due to perilous impending weather conditions, at least over 130 boats remain out at sea at the present time.
Coast guard officials told TNM that they received information from the Thoothukudi base about at least 134 boats out at sea. “We can trace and monitor these boats, and we have issued warnings to them to divert to the mainland at the earliest. While many of them are willingly approaching us, many are remaining out at sea saying that they are comfortable there. It will take them 6 hours to return to the coast. They are in touch with the coast guard, we are telling them to return to the harbour and take shelter.”
The official also said that there isn’t enough accurate and complete data on how many boats are out at sea. “This was a very big problem that occurred during Ockhi as well, but with the available details, the Coast Guard is conveying messages as accurately as possible.”
Commandant KL Arun, in charge of operations, Coast Guard Kerala, also detailed the measures already taken. “On Thursday and Friday, we have done a complete aerial survey of Indian waters from Trivandrum to Kasargod, and informed fishermen to come back. The areas have been covered by naval and coast guard aircraft. We found a large number of fishing boats and advised them to come back. The Coast Guard sent three ships, the navy also sent three ships, advising the boats through broadcasts to come back and keep relaying information about their location. From Mumbai, we have also issued a broadcast to all merchant vessels instructing them to keep relaying information about their location as well. Some fisherman are hesitant, saying that the sea has not yet become rough, and telling us that we are simply taking anticipatory actions out of fear. We cant force them to enter the harbour, given that this is a matter of their livelihood. We can only advise them and give them a weather warning, which we have done, and many of the boats are in contact with us, and say they will return if weather conditions worsen. For those between five to ten nautical miles out at sea, it will take them at least 6 hours to return to the coast.
He stresses that there’s a grave lack of information from the fisheries department. “The biggest problem we’re facing is not having a fully accurate count of how many boats have gone out and how many have returned. Fisheries is not keeping an accurate account. This is not to play a blame game, maybe it’s not practically possible. But its a state subject; fisheries has to work out a real solution here. We have to know accurately how many boats are still out there to prepare to rescue them if required.”
Pradeep, a hazard analyst at the Department of Disaster Management, reiterates that some boats are hesitant to return immediately as the seas continue to look deceptively calm at the present time. A second, more forceful warning has been issued this morning by the Coast Guard to boats still out at sea, and particularly to those reluctant to return. The Disaster Management authority is in close constant contact with the Coast Guard, and will receive a report from the fisheries department on the number of boats still out at sea by 4.30 PM this evening.
The fisheries department, for their part, told TNM that there are 100 boats still out at sea, and that they have all been communicated with through various broadcasts, and are scheduled to return to the coast by 6 PM today.