In panic, she called out her husband Sumant to show him the sight of struggling survivors. At the same time, another officer calling from the brigade reported spotting the same sight and asked for directions on the course of action.
“Quite often, life puts us in situations that test our integrity. This was one of those times,” says Vanya.
Capt Sumant reacted immediately ordering the ship to be turned around and rang the Designated Person Ashore (DPA) for permission to deliver the survivors. of TS Mora.
“Manoeuvering a loaded bulk carrier in the aftermath of the TS Mora was difficult, but with God’s grace and a very efficient crew and officers, all 6 survivors were picked up,” remembers Vanya.
The six fishremen picked up were originally a group of 10 whose boat was wrecked on 29th morning. They had been floating on buoys for three days without food and water.
Vanya says all the 10 fishermen could have been saved. “Few ships had passed them but conveniently looked the other way even after spotting them, as not many want to take unnecessary burden and work. This callous attitude had reduced their number from 10 to 6.”
She recalled that these survivors were so liveless that they even had difficulty dringking water.
“They seemed completely overwhelmed. Even drinking water down their parched throats was difficult. First aid was administered and dry clothes were provided to the ones who had lost theirs in the fight to stay alive. Thankfully, there were no major injuries, but their faces were swollen, eyes were blood red,” she says.
As MV Dubai Knight made its way back with the survivors, watchkeepers looked for more survivors. .Around 11.20 in the morning, they spotted a even larger group of people.
Vanya, who was a witness to all this, says, “Seemed like more than 16 people were holding onto their fishing buoys and each other, waving their wiry arms about. Capt Varma made another urgent call to the head office, and once again the rescue operation commenced. This time the sea was much choppier and the weather bad due to Mora Madame’s wrath.”
Rescue in choppy weather is always a difficult and dangerous proposition. But Capt Varma and his team held their nerve during the operation.
At first, due to the humongous waves the ship was turned around and could only pull up one person. The others, unable to withstand the strong currents were taken away to rear of the ship.
“The vessel was turned around the second time and painstakingly, once again, lines were thrown, as few more swam with all their might towards our ship, they were pulled up with care into the strong arms of safety and life. Slowly, over a physically and mentally exhausting 90 minutes, a total of 16 fishermen were pulled up on deck. Their eyes were glazed over and faces wore a numb expression, but gratitude was largely written all over them.” says Vanya describing the terrifying scene.
The entire crew on the ship spared no effort to help make the 22 survivors comfortable after the torment they had been through. With what must’ve been the longest three days in the lives of these survivors, they were grateful to be alive and breathing.
Vanya ends by saying, “All the 22 survivors disembarked on a navy appointed boat. The crew went back to cargo discharge and I to my porthole watchkeeping, humbled and thankful to God for having given to us this opportunity to render assistance to 22 precious lives.”
The fearlessness shown by Capt Varma and his team came in for much appreciation by the maritime world.
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