As many as 550 fishermen in 33 trawlers went missing in the Bay of Bengal on Friday in rough weather due to heavy rains triggered by a depression, prompting a search by a Coastguard ship and a Dornier aircraft.
The trawlers had set sail from Kakdwip and adjacent areas in South 24-Parganas district yesterday and were reported missing in heavy rains following the depression lying 80 km east of Kolkata, district magistrate NS Nigam told PTI over phone.
A Coastguard ship and a Dornier aircraft were despatched to trace the trawlers but the search was being "hindered by low-level high speed air circulation and low clouds", defence sources said.
Nigam said he had earlier alerted the Coastguard and that the Navy has been approached to locate the missing fishermen.
He said that the trawlers could have drifted towards Bangladesh. The West Bengal administration has contacted the Bangladesh deputy high commissioner here to help in the rescue operations, he said.
The naval officer-in-charge of West Bengal was also assisting in the search operation, the sources said.
Reports reaching here said communication had failed with the trawlers, which were equipped with radio transmitters and GPS system.
Romesh Das, owner of trawler FB Krishnakali, who managed to sail back to Gosaba, said, "I believe the fishermen could have taken shelter in the creeks at Kendo, Baghmara and Vhaimari in the Sunderbans core area."
The Sunderbans fishermen association president Subhas Sarkar maintained that the trawlers could have drifted from their course by strong westerly winds blowing towards Bangladesh.
Trinamool Congress MLA Manturam Pakhira raised the matter in the assembly and urged the state government to take immediate steps to rescue the missing fishermen.