India searches for 600 missing fishermen after storm

KOLKATA (AFP) - India's coast guard was on Monday launching a search for some 600 fishermen who have not made contact after a storm overnight in the Bay of Bengal, an official said.

About 40 trawlers have not returned to port following the storm off the coast of West Bengal in eastern India, an official from a fishermen's association said.

"We have been trying to contact the trawlers," Fishermen's Welfare Association chief Bijan Maity said. "All our efforts were in vain because of the inclement weather and storm," he told AFP.

The coast guard was preparing to search for the trawlers using a boat and an aircraft after receiving "distress calls" from the association about the fishermen, an official said.

"The search operation will begin soon," B.N. Mahato, a coast guard official stationed in West Bengal, told AFP.

During storms in the Bay of Bengal, many captains find themselves unable to return to port and take refuge with their boats and crews along the coast including in neighbouring states such as Orissa.

Storms and cyclones over the Bay of Bengal kill hundreds every year, destroying homes and farmland in Bangladesh and in India's eastern coastal states.

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