Nearly 48 hour long anxiety and mental agony of fishermen families ended on a happy late on Thursday night when 18 fishermen, who went missing at sea, were found safe. While 12 fishermen reached Nizampatnam safe by two boats, the officials could establish communication with the remaining boats in which six other fishermen were stranded at sea. Sources said the last boat too is on its way to the Nizampatnam port and is expected to arrive any moment. Family members of fishermen, who returned home, and locals celebrated their safe return. The villagers said that the safe return of their people is the real ‘Mogadaramma Jathara’ for them. The fishermen, who ventured into the sea three days ago, lost contact with the family members two days ago soon after the depression turned into a cyclonic storm. Sources said that fishermen, who disappeared in the rough waters, could manage to return as the cyclonic storm moved in northward direction from Nellore and crossed the Guntur coast. The water, which turned turbulent two days ago, is said to be calmer after the cyclone slowly started moving towards Machilipatnam. Earlier in the day, the panic-stricken family members of missing fishermen began running from pillar to post seeking help to save the lives of their dear ones. Curiously, the fishermen entered the waters violating the ban on fishing activity. A local fisherman Mohan Rao said that most of the fishermen had ventured into the sea as they were virtually turned penniless to celebrate the Mogadaramma festival. The week-long festival of fishermen’s Goddess Mogadaramma Jatara, commenced two days ago and many of the local fishermen were struggling to celebrate the festival due to the off-season. There is a two-month ban on fishing activity from April 15 to June 14 in order to conserve the egg. Normally, the government distributes additional ration to the fishermen along the coastal villages for two months but is believed to have failed to do so during the current season. “In fact, we voluntarily observe the hunting holiday as it would help us in the subsequent months. However, many of our people are suffering due to non-availability of finances and official apathy in distributing the off-season ration,” alleged another fisherman. Twelve fishermen left the harbour in the boats of Peetha Balavardhan Raju and K Mohan Rao on Monday and another batch of six fishermen went for fishing in the boat of Mopidevi Srinivasa Rao hours before the deep depression formed on Tuesday. Sources said that the fishermen maintained contact with the boat operators and family members till Wednesday. “The waters turned violent after the cyclonic storm surged towards AP coast, resulting in the missing of all the fishermen,” said a senior official. Soon after receiving a complaint from the fishermen, former minister Mopidevi Venkata Ramana and legislator Anagani Satyaprasad alerted the senior officials and sought their assistance in tracking the missing fishermen on Thursday. Although the district administration sought the assistance of the Navy, they could not swing into action due to inclement weather. Subsequently, Coast Guard personnel requisitioned the services of a ship from Chennai port to take up search operations for the missing persons. Sources said that Peesa Venkateswara Rao, Mukkoti Ravi, Chandu Ravi, Malleswara Rao, Neela Babu Rao and Sunnampudi Mogadaraiah led the fishermen into the sea. MLA Satyaprasad urged chief minister Chandrababu Naidu to instruct the senior officials to closely track the rescue operations to bring the missing fishermen to safety. Naval officials assured to kick off search operations with the help of choppers on Friday if weather conditions are conducive.

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