Amzad Hossain is one the 13 who survived after their fishing boat capsized on Sunday, they day after Cyclone Bulbul made landfall.
A crew of 24 men were headed for their homes in Char Fashion upazila of Bhola after selling their catch at Chandpur fish market.
Before setting sail around 6 in the morning, they all asked the boat owner not to make them go out in the choppy seas. But he did not pay heed.
With two of them at the boat’s controls, other 22 went to sleep in the berths inside the boat’s hull. Soon enough, monotonous thumping and bumping of waves put them in deep sleep.
Amzad’s ten years of experience at the sea came into play when he suddenly woke up with water all around and his boat turned upside down.
The 28-year-old youth remained calm and tried to open his berth’s hatch that was now under water. But he failed to open the hatch.
Having to get into seawater to untangle fishing nets many times before, Amzad did not give up hope. This time he tried harder and he finally made it out of the berth by kicking the hatch open.
Swimming out of the hull, he found the boat barely floating amid huge waves and strong winds. He climbed up on its keel, now facing the sky, to locate its position. “I saw at least a hundred storms while fishing in the deep sea, where waves resemble mountains, but never had I met with such an accident,” Amzad said.
Sensing that the boat was going to sink in no time, Amzad then jumped into the water and started to swim towards the shoreline. Before jumping into the strong waves, he took off all his clothes that might slow him down or even drown him.
It was around 1:00pm when Amzad swam ashore. He was told that he reached the bank of Tentulia river in Rajapur village of Bhola Sadar upazila.
After locals brought him clothes and some food, he told them that he had to rescue his fellow fishermen who might still be in the capsized boat. They helped him make phone calls to his relatives at his home village of Abdullahpur in Char Fashion.
His relatives along with several fishermen arrived in Rajapur within a few hours and by around 4:00pm, they sailed out in a rented fishing boat to rescue Amzad’s comrades who perished in the same river near Bahadurpur village of Barishal’s Mehendiganj upazila.
Their rescue mission, however, had to be aborted as the coast guard, police and officials from the local administration insisted that civilians would not be allowed to conduct rescue missions for safety reasons.
“The coast guard, police and officials from the local administration were at Chandpur ghat [on Sunday] too, but no one stopped us from making the voyage in the boat,” Amzad said.
“We’ve got no choice. Our lives are tied to the hands of the boat owners and we always have to follow their wish. If the boat owner didn’t force us to go to the sea, all the ten lives could’ve been saved,” he lamented.
Rescue workers later found ten bodies of the crew inside the capsized fishing boat. Amzad and 12 others came out of the boat alive while one of them still remains missing.