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65 Sri Lankans stranded in mid-sea for 17 days rescued

65 Sri Lankans stranded in mid-sea for 17 days rescued

September 15, 2012  09:16 am

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Fishermen from Nagapattinam rescued 61 Sri Lankan Tamils and four Sinhalese who were stranded in the mid sea following a snag in the engine of their boat while attempting an illegal entry to Australia via sea.

After 17 days of a nightmarish experience at sea, they were brought to the Nagappattinam shore early on Friday morning.

The incident came to light when a group of fishermen from Eeachankuppam in Nagapattinam set out to sea for fishing on September 12. The stranded Sri Lankans on a mechanised boat, staying afloat 120 nautical miles off shore Nagapattinam, raised an alarm to the fishermen to rescue them. The Indian fishermen extended a helping hand to them and towed their boat to Nagapattinam shore with 61 Sri Lankan Tamils and four Sinhalese. Three women and three boys were also among the Sri Lankan Tamils.

Nagapattinam police and the coast guard were pressed into action to receive them and make arrangements to lodge them in Nagapattinam. During the initial investigation with them, they explained that they were assured by a travel agency to go to Australia via sea without following legal procedures and search for a job for survival once they got there. But their effort turned out to be a futile exercise three days after setting out to sea following a defect in the global positioning system (GPS). Hence, they lost hope of reaching Australia and attempted to return to Nagapattinam. However, that effort was also not fruitful as there was a snag in the engine of the boat in the mid sea 120 nautical miles off Nagapattinam. They had been stranded at mid sea and were struggling for food and water for the past two weeks.

When contacted, assistant director of fisheries K Gunasekaran said, “They said they paid two to three lakh each to the agency for this purpose. Moreover, the agency insisted them to give Rs six lakh each once they reached Australia. The people hailed from Kilinochi, Mullaitheevu, Jaffna, Savakacheri, Paruthikadu, and Villivandi in Sri Lanka. They were lured by the travel agency on the promise of getting jobs.”

The rescued Sri Lankans extended their gratitude to the Nagai fishermen for rescuing them. “They are all in our custody. We have lodged them in a marriage hall in Nagapattinam town. They will be staying here until our government takes a decision on the issue,” Nagapattinam police SP G Ramar told TOI.

– Times of India


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