As many as 550 fishermen in 33 trawlers went missing in the Bay of Bengal on Friday due to heavy rains triggered by a depression, prompting a search by a Coast Guard ship and a Dornier aircraft.
The trawlers had set sail from Kakdwip and adjacent areas in South 24 Parganas district on Thursday and were reported missing in heavy rains following the depression lying 80 km east of Kolkata, said District Magistrate N S Nigam.
A Coast Guard ship and a Dornier aircraft were dispatched to trace the trawlers but the search was being "hindered by low-level high speed air circulation and low clouds", defence sources said.
Nigam said he had earlier alerted the Coast Guard and the Navy has been approached to locate the missing fishermen.
He said the trawlers could have drifted towards Bangladesh. The West Bengal administration has contacted the Bangladesh deputy high commissioner to help in the rescue operations, he said.
The naval officer-in-charge of West Bengal was also assisting in the search operation, the sources said.
Reports said communication had failed with the trawlers, which were equipped with radio transmitters and GPS system.
Romesh Das, owner of trawler FB Krishnakali, who managed to sail back to Gosaba, said, "I believe the fishermen could have taken shelter in the creeks at Kendo, Baghmara and Vhaimari in the Sunderbans core area."
Sunderbans Fishermen Association president Subhas Sarkar maintained that the trawlers could have drifted from their course by strong westerly winds blowing towards Bangladesh.
Trinamool Congress Member of Legislative Assembly Manturam Pakhira raised the matter in the House and urged the state government to take immediate steps to rescue the missing fishermen.