Three fishermen were killed and nine went missing when their boat was ripped apart by a merchant ship on Tuesday around 24 nautical miles off Kochi coast, officials said. Two men were rescued after they were spotted amid the boat wreckage by other fishermen.
The boat, Oceanic, had left from Munambam harbour near Kochi on Monday with 14 people on board. It was hit by the merchant ship around 3.30 am on Tuesday, when it was anchored.
Boat driver Edwin, who was rescued by other fishermen, alleged that the merchant ship had sailed away after hitting the boat and had made no attempts to rescue the people on the boat. Edwin and another fisherman managed to save themselves by clinging onto the wreckage. They were rescued by other fishermen around 6 am and taken to Kochi hospital for treatment.
The coastal police in Kochi have identified the three people killed in the incident as Yuganathan, 45, Manakkudi, 50, and Yacoob, 57 — all from Ramanthurai in Kanyakumari district. Of the nine people who are missing, six are from Kanyakumari, two from West Bengal and one from Kerala, they added.
Meanwhile, the Navy and Coast Guard have launched a search operation under the Southern Naval Command in Kochi. The Navy has also pressed in a Dornier aircraft to identify the merchant ship involved in the collision.
Sources in the Navy claimed the location and time of the collision indicated that the vessel involved in the incident could be M V Desh Shakthi, an Indian registered vessel. The merchant vessel, however, has expressed unawareness about the matter.
The Director-General of Shipping – the nodal agency to take action against a vessel – is also looking into the matter.
Kerala Fisheries Minister J Mercykuttiyamma said there are guidelines which the fishing boats and merchant ships are bound to follow if the former is passing through shipping channel.
“We are probing to find where the incident has happened. We have identified the ship and steps have been initiated to bring the ship to Kochi port legal action.”