The massive fire at a Visakhapatnam jetty, which reduced 25-odd boats to ash, may have been sparked by rivalry against a young YouTuber who shot to fame by sharing fishing videos. The youngster is now being questioned as investigators try to get to the bottom of the huge fire at the harbour that has sparked panic in the area.
The YouTuber, police sources have said, was involved in a fight with some people over a monetary dispute. It is possible, the sources added, that his rivals set fire to one of his boats anchored at the harbour.
Once the fishermen and local residents noticed the fire late last night, they cut off the burning boat to ensure the flames do not spread to the other boats at the jetty. But wind and water movements brought the boat back and soon, at least 25 boats were burning. Most of the boats had their tanks full of diesel and many of them had gas cylinders fishermen use to cook when they are at sea. This fuel fed the fire and caused blasts that spread fear in the area.
Most fishing gear on the boats, including nets, are flammable in nature and this, too, worsened the fire.
Fire engines were called in, but their efforts proved to be inadequate. Eventually, the Indian Navy was informed and it was a Navy vessel that managed to douse the flames using a combination of sand, foam and chemicals.
According to local authorities, each boat costs Rs 15 lakh, putting the total amount in damages to nearly Rs 5 crore. The tragedy has been compounded for the fishermen whose boats were not insured.
Visakhapatnam Police Commissioner Ravi Shankar has said a multidisciplinary probe will be conducted to get to the bottom of the incident. The fishing harbour belongs to the Vizag Port Trust. So the probe will involve port, fisheries and police authorities.
The Opposition Telugu Desam Party has slammed the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government over the incident. Nara Lokesh, TDP’s national general secretary, has criticised the state government for “failing to implement security measures in the highly sensitive shipyard area”. “Furthermore, he urged the government to respond generously, providing new boats and better compensation, considering that all the victims of this accident are from underprivileged sections,” a party statement said.