Thiruvananthapuram: Rescue teams carrying out operations to save fishermen marooned in deep sea in the wake of Cyclone Ockhi lost about eight precious hours on Friday after they received a grossly inaccurate information from the government authorities about a Japanese cargo ship rescuing 90 people.
The Coast Guard searched for hours on the high seas to locate the Japanese ship while the health department deployed 18 ambulances and nine doctors to render immediate medical aid to the victims.
With no information on the missing fishermen, their relatives and local people vented their anger on the officials, blocking roads and throwing stones at the Coast Guard’s boat. The irate mob also locked up mediapersons and health officials at the harbor.
The false news about the Japanese ship saving 90 fishermen emerged from the chief minister’s office around Friday noon.
According to the official release, ninety fishermen were rescued by a Japanese merchant ship following an alert and all of them were safe. The Coastal Guard will bring them to the shore immediately, the release added.
Following instructions, two rescue boats led by the Coastal Guard ventured into the sea to track down the cargo vessel.
Simultaneously, the health department arranged ambulances from various hospitals in the area and kept them ready at Vizhinjam. Medical experts and a posse of police were also deployed at the site. V S Sivakumar, MLA, was also present.
The release from the chief minister’s office stated that a batch of forty fishermen would be brought first to the Coastal Guard’s harbor at Vizhnjam, while the reaming persons would be taken to the shore by Friday night.
Protests erupted at site after one of the rescue boats returned empty-handed to the coast around 7 pm. They rescue team informed the officials that they could not track down the Japanese vessel, and three fishermen who were saved by three other foreign vessels had already been airlifted by Air Force’s helicopters.
The police had a tough time pacifying the mob and bringing the situation under control.
Pinarayi flays rumor mongers
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan slammed rumor mongers on Saturday after it came to light that reports of the Japanese ship rescuing Kerala fishermen was 'fake'.
Pinarayi called those spreading the rumours 'mad'.
"Don't you know, some people are mad, who make use of bad times to spread such things," said Pinarayi and pointed out 'around 400 fishermen have so far been rescued', while around 100 are yet to be traced.
Fisheries minister J Mercykutty was also upset over the false news being spread, especially related to rescue operations.
"The state government is doing its best and all the agencies are fully engaged in rescue operations and it's unfortunate that at this time, some trouble makers are coming out with false news.
"We will never blame the anxious people who are waiting for their near and dear ones," Mercykutty, however, added.