Mechanised boat, insulated truck destroyed in fire

Property gutted is said to be worth over ₹1 crore

A mechanised boat with fishnets, worth over ₹1 crore, was completely destroyed as fire broke out in the vessel after a LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) cylinder inside the boat burst even as the crew were preparing lunch at Tharuvaikulam Fishing Harbour around Friday noon.

Fortunately, no one was injured.

Tharuvaikulam Fishing Harbour, base for 128 mechanised boats involved in multi-day deep sea fishing and around 350 country boats, was abuzz with activities on Friday, as boats in batches were resuming fishing operations from Wednesday onwards after berthing the vessels for celebrating the coastal hamlet’s 10-day-long St. Michael’s Church annual feast that ended on last Tuesday (September 29).

Even as the crew of the moored mechanised fiberglass boat, owned by S. Antony Raj, 50, of 60 Veedu Colony in Tharuvaikulam, were preparing lunch in the kitchen beneath the wheelhouse after loading provisions – 500 ice bars and 2,500 litres of fuel – all required for the 2-week-long deep sea stay fishing, fire apparently broke out due to a damaged tube of the LPG cylinder, usually used for cooking in the boats even in high seas.

Though, the crew managed to come out of the boat immediately, fire engulfed the vessel within no time. Aided by a strong sea breeze, fire spread to other parts of the boat. When the LPG cylinder exploded, fire spread to an insulated truck, owned by K. Dominic, 47, of Manickapuram in Thoothukudi, which had brought ice bars to the boats as it had been parked just a few feet away from the boat.

“Though the fire spread to the boats berthed next to this ill-fated vessel, people in the fishing harbour doused it immediately with seawater. A couple of boat drivers, who were in the fishing harbour to board their vessels to resume fishing operations, courageously entered the violently burning boat with ropes so as to tow it into the sea with another boat in a bid to save other vessels from the mishap,” said A. Aniton, a witness to the mishap.

Meanwhile, two fire tenders from Thoothukudi Fire Station, on getting the call around noon, arrived at the spot to start firefighting operations.

“Even as the burning vessel was being towed by a boat to a safer distance, the rope got snapped. Undeterred by this challenge, a few youths dived into the sea with another rope to tie it to the propeller to bring the badly damaged boat closer to shores on the southern side of the fishing harbor as 300-odd country boats were anchored on the northern side. As the boat was towed closer to the shores, the firefighters doused the flame completely after a 3-hour-long battle,” said Manoharan, a fish exporter who was present at the fishing harbour.

The police, fire and rescue services and the fisheries departments are probing the incident.

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