Thiruvananthapuram: With over 100 fishermen still missing in the Cyclone Ockhi that hit the state 18 days ago, the Kerala government on Sunday decided to expand the search operations up to Goan shores.
The decision to intensify the search mission was taken at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan with representatives of fishermen's outfits, boat owners' association and members of the Latin Catholic Church, to which most of the affected fishermen belong.
As per official figures, 71 persons had lost their lives and 105 fishermen are still missing in the deadly cyclone, which hit the state's shores on 29-30 November.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to arrive here on 19 December to take stock of the post-Ockhi situation.
The chief minister said the search would be expanded with the support of marine enforcement and local fishing boat owners.
The team would be deployed as small groups and the search would be extended upto Goan shores, Vijayan told reporters after the meeting.
"The boat owners were asked to provide at least 200 boats for the search mission," he said.
Reassuring that the solatium announced for kin of the deceased fishermen and those injured in the cyclone would be distributed on time, the chief minister said the declared amount would be given as a single instalment.
The state government had announced, among other things, Rs 20 lakh to families of fishermen killed in the cyclone.
Vijayan said the LDF government's aim was to provide houses for all homeless fishermen by 2018-19 under its ambitious LIFE mission programme.
"Besides this, the Centre's aid will also be sought in this regard. The state will ask the union government to give fishermen priority in the prime minister's housing scheme," he said.
The government would also urge the Centre to relax the Coastal Regulation Zone Act to help fishermen to build houses.
Quoting figures, he said 13,436 fishermen are homeless and landless in the state while 4,148 have land, but no houses.
The state had already sought funds from the National Cyclone Risk Mitigation programme and National Relief Fund to tide over the crisis, he said.
The state government also requested the Centre to meet expenses of the search operations conducted by defence personnel in the wake of the cyclone, he said, adding that Union home minister Rajnath Singh had assured to send a central team to Kerala to take stock of the havoc.
The government also appealed to state government employees, institutions and outfits to contribute to the Ockhi relief fund being mobilised by it, he said.
Besides Vijayan, his cabinet colleagues Kadakampally Surendran, J Mercykutty and E Chandrasekharan and top officials, including Chief Secretary KM Abraham took part in the meeting.
Meanwhile, Congress-led UDF Opposition on Sunday demanded a high-level probe into the alleged government failure in initiating precautionary measures foreseeing the calamity.
Opposition leader in the Assembly Ramesh Chennithala said in a statement that though an advanced scientific mechanism to provide cyclone warning was available, it was a 'grave lapse' on the part of the state government for not giving adequate alert to fishermen in this regard.
He said even 18 days after the cyclone, there was no exact data on the number of persons killed in the calamity.
The leader also alleged that the government had failed in taking up a coordinated rescue and relief operations soon after the cyclone.
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Updated Date: Dec 17, 2017 19:54 PM