At least 25 mechanised fishing boats were gutted at the Visakhapatnam fishing harbour, which is next to Visakhapatnam Port Authority (VPA), under Visakhapatnam South Assembly constituency, early on Monday.
There was no loss of life in the incident but there was a property loss of around ?15 crores as each boat costs around ?40 lakhs. Some boats burst into flames due to fuel tanks and LPG cylinders causing panic in the area.
“At least 25 fishing boats could have been gutted,” Anand Reddy, DCP, Visakhapatnam City Police told mediapersons at the spot around 1 a.m.
Speaking to The Hindu, Visakhapatnam Regional Fire Officer Niranjan Reddy said that they received an emergency call about the incident around 12.30 a.m. on Monday and the fire was brought under control at 4.30 a.m. A total of 14 fire engines were rushed to the spot to douse the fire.
The services of eight fire engines from AP Fire Department, Visakhapatnam Port (3), Vizag Steel Plant (1), HPCL Visakh Refinery (1) and Coromandel (1) were used to control the fire, he added. This apart, a fire tug of the Eastern Naval Command had also been attached to effectively control the major fire, Mr. Reddy said.
Mr. Reddy added that the cause of the fire was still unknown and was under investigation by the police. But sources in the police said that there was liquor party being hosted on one of the boats and there was a ruckus between two groups on the boat, which could have led to the fire, as alcohol spilled on the boat. This angle is being investigated and the police is trying to identify the people.
The fishermen suspect that some criminals could have set fire to the boat at midnight.
When contacted, a senior fisherman Arjili Das, who is the leader of Fishermen’s Youth Welfare Association, said that the government should thoroughly investigate the cause of the incident, otherwise it would become a common phenomenon in the future.
“Rivalry among boat owners could be another reason as they represent different political parties, and business houses. If the police identify the first boat from where the fire had erupted, the background of the owner, etc., one can come to some conclusion on the reason behind the incident,” said Mr. Das.