Burmese Fishermen Missing

Yangon: According to Irrawaddy, approximately 7,000 fishermen that were swept into the Andaman Sea during a tropical storm on March 14-16, a total of 3,374 have now been rescued, confirmed by a source close to the Myanmar Marine Fishing Association (MMFA).

The remaining 3,700 are still missing. Nearly two weeks since 400 fishing vessels were overturned or destroyed in 70mph winds, little hope remains of anyone else surviving.

“There are currently about 400 fishing vessels at sea trying to rescue survivors of the storm,” said the source. “So far, more than 3,700 fishermen have been rescued and brought to Rangoon.”

Burma’s state media reported on March 22 that naval ships, large fishing vessels and local fishing boats had jointly rescued 3,374 fishermen. While 3,152 have already gone home, 222 fishermen remain under government care, the report said, adding that the rescued fishermen had been provided medicine, clothes and food.

The tropical storm occurred off the Irrawaddy delta coast close to areas such as Bogalay and Laputta which were severely hit by Cyclone Nargis in May 2008.

“We already listed 7,000 people as missing at sea along with their vessels,” said an official from the Botahtaung Thanlyin naval compound. “But that figure does not include those people living in littoral areas. So the number of dead may be higher.”

 “The majority of boats that were overturned were carrying local fishermen,” said the MMFA source. “Fishing vessels from Rangoon are generally larger, stronger and better equipped to resist the storm.”

Naval sources have estimated that the majority of missing fishermen are from Irrawaddy Division and Mon State.

State press reported that the Total E & P Myanmar Co. was involved in the rescue process. The company compensated each storm survivor with 20,000 kyat (US $20), medicine, clothes and other personal supplies, and arranged transportation for them.

However, a Rangoon-based journalist told The Irrawaddy that he was refused permission to talk to the survivors. “We [several Rangoon reporters] tried to talk with the storm refugees, but were not allowed.

The authorities sent them home right away. They even sent guards to accompany them to make sure they went straight home.”

Burma’s Department of Meteorology and Hydrology reported on March 14 that the region would experience heavy winds and rain with some thunder and lightning, but did not predict the tropical storm.