Vizhinjam: Four fishermen from here who were stranded in the sea for three days saw death from close quarters. With no food for days together, they fought fiery waves before returning safely to the Vizhinjam coast in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram district on Saturday afternoon, much to the relief of their concerned kin who were angry over inefficient rescue operation by the Coast Guard and the Indian Navy.
The rescued fishermen are Yesudasan, 55; Antony, 50; Louis, 53; and Benny, 33, -- all residents of Puthiyathura coastal village.
The four men narrated their near-death experience and how they survived on their own and managed to come back solely because a malfunctioning boat engine restarted, fortuitously.
The fateful moment
Both the outboard engines of their boat stopped functioning as the fishermen were returning to the coast on Wednesday afternoon. They were stranded in the sea and survived only on drinking water. The tide carried their boat in the direction of Kanyakumari, further south.
They literally faced death in the middle of the tumultuous sea. They screamed out for help as big ships passed by. But no one cared to help them. A huge cargo ship came in their direction, and the fishermen feared the worst. But to their luck, it veered off.
As huge waves hit on either sides, the boat almost toppled but then held on its own. Their troubles kept mounting and they watched helplessly as water seeped into the boat.
As strong winds rocked the boat, its stern hit Louis on his back, throwing him into the sea. He barely managed to swim back to the boat, but he suffered grievous injuries to his spine.
Yesudasan, oldest among them, started complaining of breathlessness and fatigue.
Though there was no sign of any rescue operations, they spent their time in the boat in prayer. Even as hunger bogged them down, they were confident of returning to the safety of the land. Finally, what worked in their favour was their little knowledge about repairing engine. The engine sprung back to life around 7 am on Saturday, putting an end to their ordeal for four days.
Protests at coast
Meanwhile, people along the coast protested against the authorities over the inefficient rescue bid by the Coast Guard and Navy. As their ships could not locate the missing ones, fishermen themselves ventured out into the sea in 10 boats to locate their dear ones. Though the officials claimed that they had informed all the ships passing in that direction, the statements by the missing fishermen proved these claims to be false.
Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy reached the coast on Saturday morning. He also contacted Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and chief secretary over the issue.