6 killed; Odisha sailor among 6 missing after two ships catch fire off Russia coast

Bhubaneswar: At least six Indian sailors were killed and six others including a youth from Odisha went missing after two fuel ships carrying the crew members caught fire in the Kerch Strait off Russia coast, officials said on Wednesday.

The incident happened when two ships with crew members from India, Turkey and Libya caught fire while transferring fuel from one vessel to another in the Kerch Strait off Russia coast on Monday.

The Odisha youth, Siddharth Meher hails from Sambalpur district and was reportedly working as a trainee in one of the ill-fated ships, Maestro since May 22.

Speaking to OTV over phone, Siddharth’s father SN Meher said, “We are yet to get any information from the Indian Government regarding my son. I had received a phone call from Russian authorities at Moscow yesterday. They informed me that he is still missing. We last had a chat with him over WhatsApp Monday morning.”

“Two of his colleagues who were rescued informed me that they had jumped into the waters after fire broke out in their ship. They said that they thought the three boarded the rescue ship with the help of a rope and later fell unconscious due to hypothermia. However, when they regained consciousness at the hospital, they did not find Siddharth,” said his father.

One of the ships, the Candy, had a 17-member crew, including nine Turkish citizens and eight Indian nationals. The other one, the Maestro, had 15-member crew, including seven Turkish nationals, seven Indians and an intern from Libya.

“We regret to inform that there have been causalities among Indian seamen working on these ships,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement in New Delhi.

The deceased were identified as – Pinal Kumar Bharatbhai Tandel, Vikram Singh, Sarvanan Nagarajan, Vishal Dod, Raja Debnarayan Panigrahi and Karankumar Haribhai Tandel.

Six missing Indian sailors include Siddharth Meher, Neeraj Singh, Sebastian Britto Breezlin Sahayaraj, Rushikesh Raju Sakpal, Akshay Baban Jadhav and Anandasekar Avinash.

“Russian Maritime Agency and Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre Novorossiysk are continuing efforts to locate those listed as missing,” the MEA said.

It said that arrangements are being made after completion of necessary formalities to bring back the bodies of the deceased to India. The repatriation of the other sailors is also being facilitated through Director General Communication Center, Indian Registry of Shipping, Mumbai.

Four Indian sailors – Harish Jogi, Sachin Singh, Ashish Ashok Nair and Kamleshbhai Gopalbhai Tandel – were rescued by the authorities.

(With inputs from PTI)