x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Families of Indian sailors lost four months ago off Ajman coast find new hope

The families of three Indian sailors missing since their ship sank four months ago are hoping the men may have been rescued by Iranians.

DUBAI // The families of three Indian sailors missing since their ship sank four months ago are hoping the men may have been rescued by Iranians.

Anil Negi, 22, Rakesh Lingayat, 29, and Arvind Singh, 24, have been missing since December 27 when their cargo ship, Dheema, sank in rough seas off the coast of Ajman.

Two other sailors were rescued by the Dubai ports police after they spent three days adrift. The body of another was found. The Indian consulate in Dubai has referred the case to the mission in Iran.

"The consulate has taken up the matter with our consulate in Bandar Abbas, requesting them to trace the whereabouts of the missing sailors under their jurisdiction," the Dubai mission told the three families and boat owner in a letter this month.

The letter has given the relatives some encouragement.

"It is possible that Iranian authorities have them," said Mangal Singh Negi, Anil's father.

"The incident happened close to Bandar Abbas. I am trying my best to find out any information from anybody about their whereabouts. I am glad our government is trying to help find our children."

Six crew members, all Indian, were onboard the Malaysian-flagged ship that was sailing from Ajman to Iran to load a cargo of crude oil.

When it began to sink, the crew jumped together, taking life jackets and flotation rings.

The two survivors - the captain, 32, and a crewman, 26 - told police all six had been together for two to three hours before being separated by huge swells. They were rescued at different locations and were suffering from exposure.

An officer at the consulate in Bandar Abbas said the mission had contacted Iranian authorities.

"We are in touch with local immigration authorities," he said. "As soon as we hear from Iranian authorities, we will let our consulate in Dubai and ministry in India know.

"We have also checked with local shipping companies that may have sailed in the same area at that time but they said there had been no trace of them."

Despite the new hope, Mr Negi did not rule out the possibility of bad news.

"Everybody tells us that the men are strong swimmers," he said. "But if they are dead, I hope at least their bodies may have been found by Iranian authorities."

pkannan@thenational.ae