Chennai, Jan. 2
SALVAGE operations at the Royapuram fishing harbour, where more than 60 trawlers have been damaged, is in full swing with the Chennai Port Trust deploying cranes to recover boats sunk or run aground after the tsunami that hit the coast on December 26.
Though the immediate work of recovering these vessels is likely to be completed in about a week, it could be months before the boats are repaired and normal operations commence, say fishermen.
The fishermen association covering Thiruvallur, Chinglepet and Kanchipuram has decided that unless the entire relief promised by the Central and State Government is received, none would go out fishing.
Even the owners of boats that have not been damaged have decided to suspend fishing operations for the time being. The Chennai Port Trust Chairman, Mr K. Suresh, said a barge-mounted crane with a capacity of 50 - 70 tonnes and a floating crane `Thangam' of 150 tonne capacity have been sent to the fishing harbour.
Also, two cranes have been sent to assist in salvage operations at Nagapattinam, the worst affected in the disaster, and Cuddalore.
According to statistics provided by the Fisheries Department, Mr Suresh said, over 61 trawlers have been destroyed, 43 partly damaged and nearly 400 have suffered minor damage.
The total loss is estimated at about Rs 16 crore - 20 crore.
The workers handling the salvage operations said it would continue for more than a week.
The fishing harbour is not only cramped for space, but the harbour bottom is also littered with debris and sunken boats. The litter has to be cleared first before the floating crane can gain access to the boats driven aground or lifted on to wharfs by surging waters.
According to Mr P. Karunanidhi, General Secretary, Tamil Nadu Federation of Fishermen Associations, the key issue is to support the workers depending on the boats for their livelihood.
There are over six hundred 45-feet boats; 11 people work in each of them. There are two hundred 30-feet boats with four people working in each of them.
Three to four people work in each of the 300 fibre boats with outboard motors.
In addition, there are hundreds of catamarans. The workers on the damaged vessels do not have any source of income till fishing resumes.
Though immediate relief work is on, the workers need support till the boats are repaired. This could take at least two or three months, said Mr Karunanidhi.