Eight of the damaged boats carried the harvest of fish and shrimps, which were for downloading in the morning. (DC Image)
Visakhapatnam: A major fire engulfed the jetty of the Visakhapatnam fishing harbour around 11 pm on Sunday. The fire destroyed 40 boats and partially damaged 50 mechanised and semi-mechanised boats.
The fire started from one boat and spread to the entire jetty. It created a panic situation in the harbour as cooking gas cylinders and diesel tanks in the boats started exploding. There was no loss of life or injury.
Twelve fire tenders were pressed into service including a few from the Indian Navy and Visakhapatnam Port Authority. The fire was brought under control in the early hours of Monday.
Chairman of the fisheries corporation, Perla Vijaychander, told Deccan Chronicle that 40 boats were completely gutted. The fishermen, who rushed to the spot, could save another 50 boats.
"Each gutted boat was carrying 5,000 litres of diesel, cooking gas cylinders and groceries as they were preparing for voyage on Monday morning,’’ Vijaychander said.
Eight of the damaged boats carried the harvest of fish and shrimps, which were for downloading in the morning.
Around 50 families depend on each boat. The incident was said to be the first such occurrence in the harbour.
DCP Ananda Reddy said the Sunday night was windy, causing the fire to spread very quickly among the boats made of wood and covered by fibre sheets. They were anchored closely, he said.
City police chief Ravi Shankar visited the spot and said some youngsters were taking drinks in one of the mechanised boats that caught fire. They sat together for the World Cup finals.
"We are questioning some youngsters and examining the CCTV cameras in the harbour. The suspected YouTuber Nani came to the harbour after the fire started. He got a call while watching the World Cup match in a lodge,’’ the commissioner told Deccan Chronicle.
Meanwhile, the owners of the boats staged protests in front of the main gate of the harbour and blocked the main roads there, demanding compensation for the loss. They called off the agitation after fisheries minister Appala Raju promised them government help.