Kolkata: The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) saved the lives of 20 Bangladeshi fishermen in the Bay of Bengal in the wake of Cyclone Sitrang that claimed at least 35 lives in the neighbouring nation and destroyed property worth crores.

According to a senior ICG official, a Dornier on a routine post-cyclone ‘sanitisation' sortie spotted the fishermen on Tuesday near the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) between India and Bangladesh.

"This was about 90 nautical miles (nearly 167 km) from Sagar Island. Such sanitisation sorties are launched to check if there are any mariners or fishermen in distress after a cyclone. The fishermen were in the water clinging to floats and debris from capsized boats.

"Our Dornier immediately dropped a life raft near them and ensured that all had climbed into it before directing MV Nanta Bhum, a merchant vessel in the area, to pick them up. MV Nanta Bhum was on its way to the Kolkata port from Port Klang in Malaysia. ICG Dorniers then carried out two more sorties to make sure there are no more people in need of assistance," the official said.

ICG ships Vijaya, Varad and C-426 were also diverted to the area to assist in Search and Rescue operations.

The 20 Bangladeshis were subsequently taken over by ICGS Vijaya. They underwent a medical check-up on board the ship and were provided with food and water.

Bangladeshi authorities have also been informed and the fishermen will be handed over to the Bangladesh Coast Guard as per a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between it and the ICG.

"The ICG, in co-ordination with the state governments of West Bengal and Odisha, had taken pre-emptive and preventive measures to ensure that no lives are lost at sea due to the Cyclone. The advisory was also shared with the Bangladesh Coast Guard. Throughout the passage of the Cyclone, weather advisory was aired by ICG through its Radar Station and Remote Operating Stations. We are very happy with the way this operation was carried out," the official added.