Thiruvananthapuram: As many as 17 fishermen from Kerala are trapped in Iran after an unprecedented surge in the number of new coronavirus cases forced the government to enforce movement restrictions in the country.
In a video that surfaced recently, 17 Keralite fishermen were seen among a group confined to a room.
“We are unable to even go out of our room as that’s the rule here. We are even unable to contact our people who are holed up in other fishing villages. We are waiting to get help from our country, so we can return to be with our families,” said a fishermen in the video.
Iran is at the epicentre of the outbreak in the region, with several countries in the Middle East reporting cases of the coronavirus stemming from Iran.
The 17 fishermen hail from Vizhinjam, Poovar and Pozhiyoor in Thiruvananthapuram district.
“On account of the coronavirus in Iran, 17 Kerala fishermen are among several other Indian fishermen, who are unable to move out on account of the restrictions imposed there. We have asked their families in India to hand over their details to the Department of Non Residents Keralites Affairs (NORKA), who will then contact the Indian Embassy in Iran,” Kerala Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma told mediapersons on Sunday.
The minister said that the Kerala government will take up the issue with the Centre also.
NORKA CEO K Harikrishnan Namboothiri told Manorama News that around 60 Keralite fishermen were currently trapped in Iran in a similar manner.
The minister said that arrangements will be made to provide basic amenities to the fishermen and attempts will be made to bring them back after receiving permission.
The fishermen reportedly left for Iran four months ago.
Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday appealed to the External Affairs Minister to take necessary steps and arrange for safe return of hundreds of fishermen, including Keralites, trapped in Iran following coronavirus scare.
In a letter to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, he said the state government has received information that more than hundred people, including around 60 from Kerala, were trapped in Azalur in Iran.
"When contacted by state government officials, it has been stated by the persons trapped in Azalur that more than hundred persons are there out of which around 60 are reported to be from Kerala," Pinarayi said in the letter.
"...I request you to direct the (Indian) Embassy officials (in Iran) to take necessary steps and arrange for the safe return of these persons," he wrote.
Many Indians feared trapped in Iran
Indian envoy to Iran Gaddam Dharmendra had on Saturday said the authorities are working to facilitate the return of Indians in Iran who wish to return home.
"In view of COVID19, working to facilitate the return of those Indians wishing to go back home. Discussions underway with concerned authorities to work out arrangements. Will keep you updated (sic)," Dharmendra had said on Twitter.
Earlier, the Indian embassy in Tehran had issued an advisory for Indians residing there and assured them that they were closely monitoring the situation.
In addition, people coming from Iran or having such travel history since 10 February may be quarantined for 14 days on arrival to India, the advisory said.
Iran's health ministry on Sunday reported 11 new deaths from the novel coronavirus and 385 infections, bringing the overall number of lives lost to 54 and cases to 978.
The Iranian government has ordered schools shut until Tuesday and extended the closure of universities and a ban on concerts and sports events for a week. Authorities have also banned visits to hospitals and nursing homes as the country's case load hit nearly 600.
One Iranian lawmaker, elected in February 21 polls, has died from the disease along with more than 40 other Iranians, and several high-ranking officials have tested positive for the virus.
The epidemic, which began in China, has killed almost 3,000 people worldwide, the ministry said.