Dead bodies floating in the sea, their faces down, their skin white. Fellow fishermen, too scared to touch the bodies or bring them onto boats, afraid that the bodies may disintegrate if they try. These are the horrific videos shot by fishermen in the aftermath of Cyclone Ockhi, adding to the fisher communitiesâ€™ anger that the governments, the navy and the coast guard have done little to save their kin and colleagues lost at sea.
In one of the videos, the corpse of a man is found attached to lifebuoys and cans. The fishermen also found a small bag which had about eight mobile phones and an identity card.
Warning: Graphic video
It has been 12 days since Cyclone Ockhi struck Kanyakumari but the people in the district are still grappling with its after-effects. Fisher communities claim that the navy and coast guard could have tried much harder to save more people after the cyclone.
In fact, fishermen claim that despite cries for help, they did not get adequate support.
On December 6, 2017, fishermen living in Kanyakumari heard rumours that a boat with 40 people had drowned in the sea. â€śWe took permission from the collector and 32 of us went into the sea but no boat had drowned. But, on December 7 evening, we started finding dead bodies. We found five bodies, two other boats saw one body each floating in the sea and another boat found three dead bodies,â€ť said Pious, a fisherman from Thiruvattar.
He added that they did not try to bring back the bodies. â€śIf we tried to pick the bodies from the water, they would have disintegrated. The bodies were in such bad condition,â€ť said Pious.
However, he claimed that they tried to inform the navy on the phone about the situation. â€śWe heard some people screaming for help but we could not find anyone, so we tried informing the navy but they claimed that our voices were not audible. They asked us to leave as we would be a hindrance for their search operations,â€ť said Pious.
Asked if the search operations were going on the right track, â€śThe navy and coast guard have all kinds of equipment, they should have been able to find some people. The fishermen can easily stay alive for 3 to 4 days in the sea, the search teams should have tried to find them earlier,â€ť said Pious.
For the last five days, more than 5000 people have been protesting in Kanyakumari demanding to speed up the search operations and find the missing fishermen, and also provide compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the families of the deceased. On Tuesday, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami visited Kanyakumari and met the protesters, and increased the compensation amount to Rs 20 lakh.
But the fisher communitiesâ€™ anger has been rising, especially since the official figures of the dead has been woefully different from what the fishermen estimate.According to the Kanyakumari district administration, in total 12 people have died due to Cyclone Ockhi which includes two fishermen.
But Pious said, â€śAbout five small boats and 43 multi-purpose boats with 529 people have been missing in Thiruvattar alone. Seventy-eight fishermen have been reported dead.â€ť
Sajjansingh R Chavan, Kanyakumari Collector had told TNM on Monday, "In Kanyakumari district, about 13 small boats have not reported back, there were about 35 fishermen in them. 43 multipurpose fishing boats with 427 fishermen have also not reported back to the shore. We do not call them missing because they generally go for 30 to 45 days and they do not contact families. As we are getting the report of boats, the numbers are gradually going down."