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Cyclone Ockhi: Kin of missing fishermen call for intensified rescue efforts, Kerala govt urges Centre to declare national calamity

The Indian Navy and the Coast Guard on Saturday continued to search for missing fishermen using ships, dornier aircraft and helicopters in the choppy seas off Kerala and Lakshadweep in the wake of Cyclone Ockhi. Meanwhile, kin of missing fishermen and residents of some Cyclone Ockhi-hit localities took to the streets to  draw the attention of the authorities to their plight.

The death toll due to the cyclone has now risen to 13.

Protesters sought intensified search operations for their family members out on the high seas, while the government authorities stated that everything in their power was being done to alleviate the damage caused by the cyclone. Following are some of the key developments related to the calamity on Saturday

Fishermen families protest, call for intensified rescue and relief efforts

Family members of around 1,000 fishermen and residents of some Cyclone Ockhi-hit localities in Tamil Nadu's Kanyakumari hit the streets in protest on Saturday to draw the attention of the authorities to their plight and to seek intensified searches for their kin out on the high seas.

The kin of around 1,000 fishermen who ventured into the deep seas when Cyclone Ockhi struck the southern Tamil Nadu coast have demanded that aerial searches and rescue operations be launched to trace the missing men.

On the other hand people living in a locality in Nagercoil protested against the official apathy to their basic needs like drinking water, milk for children and power supply.

According to ANI, agitating locals blocked the national highway for five hours in Thumba, Kerala, demanding better relief measures and rescue of 6 fishermen missing from the area.

 Cyclone Ockhi: Kin of missing fishermen call for intensified rescue efforts, Kerala govt urges Centre to declare national calamity

Relatives crying for a fisherman, who went missing in the rough sea due to a cyclone, in the coastal hamlets of Poonthura in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday. PTI

Opposition, Kerala government urge Centre to declare Ockhi as national calamity

The Kerala government decided to urge the Centre to declare Cyclone Ockhi, which left a trail of destruction in the state, as a national calamity. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan entrusted chief secretary KM Abraham with the task of preparing a memorandum in this regard, sources in the chief minister's office (CMO) said.

Vijayan met some injured fishermen, who were rescued from the choppy waters, at the medical college hospital in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday and inquired about their well-being. All that was possible has been done by the government, Vijayan later told reporters.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly Ramesh Chennithala urged him to declare Cyclone Ockhi, which wreaked havoc in the state, Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and Lakshadweep in the last two days, as a national disaster.

Chennithala also urged the Kerala government to increase the financial aid for the injured at least up to Rs 50,000 from the present Rs 15,000.

Opposing figures on fishermen missing due to calamity

While protesters stand by the fact that over 1,000 fishermen were missing in the coastal areas due to the effects of Cyclone Ockhi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman asserted that only 97 are yet to be rescued.

"Claim of thousand fishermen stranded is false. Correct figures- 97 are yet to be rescued, 71 from Tamil Nadu have been rescued till now. The Coast Guard is at it, with all its strength to rescue the rest. Hoping for good news soon," she said.

IANS reported that the bodies of four Kerala fishermen were recovered on Saturday, taking the toll to six so far in the aftermath of Cyclone Ockhi, while there is no word about 102 fishermen from the state who ventured into the deep sea.

Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that as many as 531 fishermen, stranded in the choppy waters off the Kerala and the Lakshadweep coasts due to Cyclone Ockhi, have been rescued.

"So far, 393 people from Kerala have been rescued," Vijayan said, as the state government announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the families of those who died in the storm.

Of the rescued, 132 fishermen were from the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, 66 from Kozhikode, 55 from Kollam, 40 from Thrissur, and 100 from Kanyakumari, Vijayan told reporters.

Stranded fisherman being brought to Kerala coast by Indain Navy personnel, in Kochi on Saturday. PTI

Stranded fisherman being brought to Kerala coast by Indain Navy personnel, in Kochi on Saturday. PTI

Tamil Nadu government requests Centre to deploy Navy, Coast Guard helicopters for rescue operations 

The Tamil Nadu government on Saturday requested the Centre to deploy helicopters of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard for the search and rescue of missing fishermen, mostly from Kanyakumari, in the wake of Cyclone Ockhi.

Chief Minister K Palaniswamy made the request as he discussed the situation with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Singh had called up the chief minister and sought details on the damage caused by the the cyclone, an official release said.

"The chief minister requested (Singh) that the Coast Guard and Navy should continue assisting the state government in swiftly rescuing the fishermen who have not returned so far, and that helicopters of Coast Guard and Navy should be deployed for this purpose," the release said.

Singh assured the AIADMK leader that the Centre would provide the assistance required to rescue the fishermen, it said. Meanwhile, DMK working president MK Stalin wrote to defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on the issue of rescuing the stranded fishermen.

In his letter, Stalin, also Leader of Opposition in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, urged her to direct the Coast Guard to search and rescue "thousands of fishermen fighting for their lives mid-sea, so as to prevent further loss of lives due to the Ockhi cyclone".

He told Sitharaman "immediate rescue measures must be undertaken by the Indian Coast Guard". "Their families are very much afraid that the lives of the stranded fishermen are in great danger," Stalin added about kin of fishermen who were still missing.

Narendra Modi assures full assistance to K Palaniswamy

The Tamil Nadu government has said it will soon seek central funds for the damage caused by Cyclone Ockhi in the southern parts of the state.

This was conveyed to Narendra Modi by Palaniswamy during a telephone conversation between the two leaders last night, a state government release said. "The prime minister assured to immediately give the required assistance," the release issued last night said.

Modi telephoned Palaniswamy and inquired about the damage caused by the cyclone, which also battered parts of Kerala, the release said.

Assistance from Maharashtra

Fishermen from near Kerala, who were caught in the rough seas due to Cyclone Ockhi, have reached Maharashtra's Sindhudurg coast and are safe, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said in Mumbai on Saturday evening.

"In all 68 fishing boats, out of which 66 are from Kerala and two from Tamil Nadu, have reached with total 952 fishermen on board. All are safe," the Maharashtra chief minister said in a tweet. "Maharashtra will completely look after everyone till weather permits them to go back," he said.

No rescue operations by Japanese ship, asserts Kerala chief minister

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan slammed rumour mongers on Saturday and stated that reports of a Japanese merchant ship rescuing 60 Kerala fishermen caught in the deep seas, were "fake".

Following that report, a huge crowd of anxious fishermen waited in Vizhinjam expecting to welcome their missing relatives. Many ambulances were also asked to be stationed at the port.

Later fresh news came that the Japanese ship since it was on its way to Kochi, it would drop the fishermen there. It was only late in the night that truth surfaced, that the story was cooked up.

Police vigil in the beach during Ockhi cyclone alert in Kozhikode on Saturday. PTI

Police vigil in the beach during Ockhi cyclone alert in Kozhikode on Saturday. PTI

Trapped in violent waters without food or water, Kerala fishermen come ashore to safety

Though many fishermen were brought ashore safely and admitted to hospitals after facing the cyclone, many are yet to recover from the shock of wrestling the lashing waves.

Stephan, a fisherman hailing from nearby Poonthura, said he was terrified on seeing a rescue boat move away without seeing them and hearing their cries.

"It was the first time we were experiencing such huge waves and a rough sea. Luckily, the rescue boat came back and saved us," Stephan, who is recuperating at the Government Medical College Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, said.

Titus, another fisherman hailing from Neendakara in Kollam district, said he had never seen such a violent sea even in movies. His fellow fisherman Kennedy said their boat drifted aimlessly for around 100 km in the gusty winds.

Coast Guard issues advisory on sea condition      

Fishermen, tourists and coastal population have been advised not to venture into the sea for the next 48 hours as the sea conditions are likely to be non-conducive due to the effect of cyclone Ockhi.

A Coast Guard (CG) advisory in Mangaluru said the status of weather and sea conditions should be checked on television, radio, newspapers and smart phone applications before venturing out into the sea. The merchant ships should also be alert and avoid the path of Cyclone Ockhi, it said.

Various naval, coast guard ships and aircraft are patrolling the sea to render search and rescue services. Merchant ships or fishing boats should also assist each other to save precious lives in time, the advisory said. Fishing boats should remain in groups and during distress all the crew should remain together, it added.

Any distress to life at sea must be conveyed by using maximum possible means like radio telephony Channel 16, mobile phone and DAT (Distress Alert Transmitter) to the rescue units, the advisory said.

As Cyclone Ockhi hits Lakshadweep islands, rains damage property, disrupt communication lines

Several houses suffered damage, coconut trees got uprooted and communication lines were disrupted as rains accompanied by strong winds lashed the Lakshadweep islands under the influence of Cyclone Ockhi.

Five fishing boats were damaged early on Saturday at Kalpeni island as water level rose due to heavy rains, sources said.

The 'very severe' cyclonic storm Ockhi - which in Bengali means 'eye' - over Lakshadweep is likely to intensify further in the next 24 hours.

It is likely to continue to move west-northwestwards across Lakshadweep islands during the next 24 hours and then recurve north eastwards during the subsequent 48 hours, according to the latest Met department bulletin.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Dec 02, 2017 22:37:01 IST