No clue of missing fishermen or hit and run ship

The navy and coast guard continued to search for three missing fishermen on Friday, a day after a ship collided with their boat off the Kerala coast, claiming two lives. There is no clue of the erring vessel either.

A top shipping official told agencies on condition of anonymity that search operations would be on for some more time.

"Since the accident took place, our officials have intercepted some ships to see if they had any role in it. These things have to be done in a manner that does not interfere with the rights of the ships. The vessels that ply on the waters have their privileges too as per international law," said the official.

A ship rammed into the fishing boat, Don 1, early Thursday, leaving two fishermen dead, three missing, while two escaped with injuries. The boat had gone for fishing activities from the Kollam harbour last week and dropped anchor in the deep sea.

Navy divers are expected to reach the accident site. Locals feel the body of the missing fishermen could be trapped in the capsized boat.

Anger is mounting in fishing community, which says that despite 15 similar accidents in the past three months, nothing has happened except assurances to increase coastal security.

"Three high speed interceptor boats that cost more than Rs.4 crore have been lying idle near Alappuzha as there are no qualified drivers for them. Had such a boat been in service, the life of Xavier (who died an hour after he was rescued in Thursday's incident) could have been saved," said George, a trade union leader of the fishing community.

The villages of Chavara and Panmana from which the two killed and three missing fishermen of Thursday's incident hail are observing a total shutdown on Friday with shops and establishments all closed and no fishermen has gone for fishing activities.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy visited the homes of the dead fishermen Thursday and paid his last respects. He announced that the next cabinet meeting would decide on the compensation to be handed out to the kith and kin of those killed.

Besides compensation in cash, one family member each of the deceased would be given a government job.

The accident came close on the heels of the Feb 15 incident when two fishermen, one from Kerala and another from Tamil Nadu, were shot dead by security officials of the Italian vessel Enrica Lexie who mistook them for pirates.

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