“A million people evacuated as a powerful Tropical Cyclone TS MORA expected on 30th May 2017.
Armed forces, Rescue and Medical teams on standby.”
Bangladesh's two main seaports Chittagong and Mongla suspend Cargo operations and close ports.
Chittagong advised #10 Warning Signal: the highest level. All Ships asked to leave port.
We, aboard Dubai Knight comprising 25 crew members, having been forewarned, and sailed out 200 Nautical miles to be safely out of TS Mora's expected route.
But what about the unsuspecting fishermen who had already sailed out a few days ago, unaware of the impending doom? The intensity and velocity of wind and water of an angry cyclone is deadly!
31ST MAY 2017
Always on the lookout for Pelagic Life forms, having spotted dolphins just the previous week, I opened the curtain of our porthole to look at what nature had in store for us today…port side, I spot some algae like float but with moving extrusions. On closer inspection, to my horror I realised they were human arms frantically waving out to catch attention of the watchkeepers of the passing ship. I immediately called out to my husband, Capt. Sumant Varma and showed the scary sight. We were just taking it in when the 3rd Officer Manish Pant called from Bridge reporting the same sighting to the Captain and asking for directions on the course of action.
Without hesitation, Capt. Varma directed the ship to be turned around while he called up the DPA for permission to pick up the apparent survivors of the TS Mora. Along with the desire to help the distressed at sea, practical aspects of Insurance and Scare of hostages taking over ship being common in these waters had to be considered too. Capt. Ayyaz Khanchey, Alt DPA ashore of our ship, advised Capt. Varma to go ahead and rescue the survivors.
Maneuvering a loaded bulk carrier, in the aftermath of the TS Mora was difficult, but with God's grace and a very efficient crew and officers, all the 6 survivors were picked up. A group of 10 fishermen had set out, their boat was wrecked on 29th morning, and they were floating on fishing buoys for 3 days hoping for survival about 48 Nautical miles away from land, without food, water or shelter. Few ships had passed them but conveniently looked the other way even after spotting them, as not many want to take unnecessary burden and work. This callous attitude had reduced their number from 10 to 6!
Being pulled up on board ship's deck, the 6 survivors just lay down lifelessly… thanking the crew for saving their lives. They were in shock, fatigued but happy to be still alive. They seemed completely overwhelmed… even drinking water down their parched throats was difficult... first aid administered, dry clothes provided for the ones who had lost theirs in the fight to stay alive. Thankfully no major injuries but their faces swollen, eyes redshot, minor abrasions and cuts and utter fatigue.
We proceeded on our way once again, back on our charted course, along with the 6 survivors.
Watchkeepers on bridge on high alert now, spot a similar but much larger huddle of humans. Seem like more than 16 people, holding onto their fishing buoys and each other, waving their wiry arms about.
Capt. Varma again makes an urgent frantic call to the head office, and once again rescue operations commence. This time the sea is much choppier and weather is in a bad mood, maybe due to Mora Madam's wrath. The ship was turned around but due to the humongous waves, managed to pull up only one person, before the current took the majority of them to the aft of the ship. Again the vessel was turned around and painstakingly, once again lines thrown, as few more swam with all their might towards our ship and were pulled up with care into the strong arms of safety and life. Slowly, over a tiring and physically and mentally exhausting 90 minutes, a total of 16 fishermen were pulled up on deck. Their eyes were glazed over, faces wearing a numb expression, but gratitude largely writ all over them.
Kudos to the entire ship crew, everybody tried to make the 22 survivors comfortable after the terrible ordeal they had been through. Now on board, but they all had been floating in water for 3 days as their boats had capsized on the morning of the 29th ,and we picked them on 31st.
Bangladesh Coast guard, Navy, Port Control and all concerned authorities were informed about the 22 survivors aboard Dubai Knight, and then we proceeded towards Chittagong anchorage.
1ST JUNE 2017
All the thankful 22 survivors Disembark on Navy appointed boat.
Now the crew back to cargo discharge and me to my porthole watchkeeping…humbled and thankful to God for having given to us this opportunity to render assistance to 22 precious lives.
By Vanya Varma