Updated: May 20, 2021 11:51:01 am
As more roads were restored in Amreli district on Wednesday, Paresh Dhanani, leader of Opposition, and fellow Congress MLA Ambarish Der visited Jafrabad, the coastal town near Una, where the extremely severe cyclone Tauktae had made landfall on intervening night of Monday and Tuesday. While majority of fishermen were busy setting their boats and fishing gears right, a few could show the two Congress leaders only wreckage of their boats.
As Danani and Der arrived, they were led near the bridge across the Jafrabad harbour. Around a dozen boats were trapped under the bridge, many of them having been overturned. Seven other boats lay on the other side the bridge after cyclone Tauktae pushed them through the bridge structure while making landfall, fishermen told the visitors.
Scenes were worse behind the Kharva Samaj crematorium at the mouth of the harbour. Near a few barges, tugs and a huge dredger lay wreckage of few fishing trawlers. “This engine is the only trace of my fishing boat. For me, everything is destroyed. Hanging myself is the only option for me now,” Ismile Napali (58) told Dhanani as the latter inspected wreckage of the fishing boat Al Faiz.
Dhanani comforted the fisherman: “Don’t be disheartened. Together, we will do something. We will fight for some relief.”
“I had borrowed Rs 2 lakh to repair my boat. But now the boat is gone and with it, the source of our livelihood. These barges, tugs and dredgers broke my boat into three. I know, they didn’t do it intentionally, but they are responsible for my loss,” Napali later told The Indian Express.
Kanaiyala Solanki, president of Kharva Samaj Macchimar Boat Association said of around 700 fishing boats anchored in Jafrabad harbour, 200 have been damaged while eight to 10 were untraceable. “Of the 200 damaged boats, 150 are total loss while 50 are repairable. The loss to fishermen of Jafrabad is around Rs 300 crore,” Solanki said, adding at least three fishermen died during the storm. “We have not experienced a cyclone so intense in our lifetime,” he added.
Bhavesh Baraiya (30) and his elder brother Mahesh were furious while pointing to a tug blocking access to their wrecked fishing trawler Jamnaprasad.
“Thanks to Jamnaprasad, we could earn and construct seven other trawlers. But now Jamnaprasad has been damaged beyond repairs. We lost her because this tug crashed into her,” said Mahesh, adding, “These barges, tugs and dredgers were anchored in the mouth of the harbour. But they shouldn’t have been there given trouble was expected due to the cyclone.”
Bhavesh, however, was circumspect while talking about a barge which had sandwiched his boat. “At around 12 am on Tuesday, the wind started rocking Jamnaprasad violently. It was also raining torrentially and the sea tide was the highest I have ever seen. Sensing my boat can overturn any moment, I abandoned it and went on board this barge. This barge saved my life,” he said.
Solanki said that fishermen from Shiyal Bet were the worst affected. “The Lal Batti part of the harbour where they anchor their boats faces the open sea and are therefore exposed to violent winds and tidal waves. Of their 150 boats, around 100 have been damaged,” said Solanki, adding, “It will take up to 10 years for Jafrabad fishermen to recover.”
Meanwhile, dozens of fishermen came to Solanki on Wednesday evening complaining of theft of equipment. “People who are not fishermen are stealing batteries, inverters etc from unattended boats. We will file police complaint about this,” said Solanki, while telling the fishermen that the Prime Minister had made an aerial survey of Jafrabad and that he expects government to compensate fishermen.
Incidentally, power supply in Jafrabad was disrupted early on Monday morning and it was not restored till Wednesday evening as flattened electric poles and cables lined streets and town roads.
Bhavesh told The Indian Express that Tauktae has tested the limits of their patience. “Jafrabad is known for Bombay Duck fish which is eaten after sun-drying. Every August, our catch is damaged by rain while being sun-dried. Government never pays us any compensation though agriculturalists get compensated against crop loss. We are also sagakhedu, farmers who earn their living by fishing. If the government doesn’t compensate our losses incurred on account of the cyclone, we shall stop participating in election.”
Meanwhile, residents said Jafrabad municipality have not distributed water over the past three days. “Thankfully, there is potable water in a well on agricultural field of Kana Ata and a diesel pump to pump water out of that well,” said Fazal Kadri, a fisherman who has been volunteering to supply water to residents of Jafrabad.
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