KARACHI, Sept 11: A pall of gloom hung over the Jamote Jetty at Ibrahim Hyderi as a search and rescue mission continued on Tuesday for the fishermen who had drowned after fishing trawler Al-Rahman, carrying 37 men on board, capsized on Sunday evening.
Volunteers have recovered 16 bodies. Eleven men were rescued on Monday, three of whom died in hospital, taking the death toll to 19. Ten more people are yet to be found.
Edhi Janbaaz ambulances were lined up on the jetty and their staff ready, looking out towards the sea more to avoid the sad expressions all around than to receive more bodies.
A boat headed their way but stopped midway to drop anchor. “It couldn’t find anyone this time so it is taking a break,” said Azhar Malik, one of the ambulance staffers, madadgar, to Dawn at the jetty.
“We are getting a body after every three to four hours now as they come up themselves after 48 hours of drowning. Those yet to be recovered may be stuck in mangrove roots,” said the man in charge of the Edhi Janbaaz team, Mohammad Salman.
Abdul Sattar Edhi’s grandson, Ahmed Edhi, also present at the jetty said although Mr Edhi was in Quetta, he had directed him to make sure there was no shortage of fuel for the boats out on the search mission.
Asked about the state of the bodies being found after two days, people around said the bodies were in a very bad shape. “They are bloated with missing eyes, ears and noses that have been eaten by fish,” said Faisal, a young man at the jetty. He had been waiting there since he first heard of the capsizing of the fishing trawler on Sunday as his younger brother Mohammad Yousuf was on it and was still missing.
“There is no hope of finding him alive now, but I’m praying they find his remains soon as he would at least get a proper burial,” he said.
Another man, Karim, has lost his cousin Gulzar, who was also yet to be found, and Punnu had lost three nephews. They all hailed from Khair Mohammad Khaskheli Goth, which had 12 of its residents on the boat for the first time. “We are construction workers involved in reti-bajri work in Gadap Town. Our people only recently decided to get into fishing to supplement their income. Now eight have been saved but four are gone,” he said.
Standing in a corner with wide-open eyes was a frail old Bengali-speaking man, Abdul Ghaffar, who had lost his son-in-law, Kamran, father of three. “My daughter is overcome with grief. Pray they find his body,” he said quietly.
Abdul Ghaffar said his daughter had been married to Kamran for around 12 years and they had two daughters aged three and two years and a son aged seven months. “The baby boy is handicapped making him his father’s favourite child,” he said while holding his son-in-law’s CNIC. “It has his picture for identification as I couldn’t find anything else in my hurry to reach here as soon as I heard of the accident.”
Families gathered at the jetty said the KMC’s lifeguards also looked for the bodies, but had not been very successful. “But the boat owner, Haji Omar, is still out looking for his fishermen’s bodies. His own boat, the Al-Rahman, broke after capsizing but they are four brothers, all of whom own boats and three boats are out searching for the drowned,” said one of them, Sharafullah.
Asked if they had got any bad weather warning before the accident, the young man said: “Yes, we listen to the radio where they do broadcast the expected weather and weather for fishermen sailing out to sea, but we can’t afford to pay heed to such warnings when our families are hungry. This is a good time for fishing, too, as the season for catching fish has only just begun after a month-long ban.”
Meanwhile, the Port Qasim meteorological office said that they had issued reports of chances of thunderstorm.
Fishermen, however, said it was not that the sea was rough. “The tide that turned the boat over was rather big, but it wouldn’t have hurt Al-Rahman had it not been at the edge of a cliff and loaded with catch that had already tilted the boat,” Sharafullah pointed out. “And then with the net already in the sea, the fishermen got caught in it as well when they tried to swim out from under the vessel after it had capsized.”