Express News Service
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The recent cyclone has brought to the fore the lack of proper mechanism to urgently communicate with fishermen at sea about an impending natural disaster. The situation is set to change once a mechanism to improve the communication with fishermen at sea is put in place by the state government in association with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS).
Alerting thousands of fishermen who venture into the sea on small boats is a near-impossible task, according to Fisheries Department authorities. Though mobile phone connectivity is available up to 12 nautical miles (22 km), most of the fishermen venture much beyond that range.“Our exclusive economic zone extends up to 200 nautical miles (370 km). Using the facilities of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, the entire area and even beyond that can be brought under coverage,” said a senior officer of the Fisheries Department.
A memorandum of understanding has been signed with INCOIS. ISRO scientific secretary Koteswara Rao is slated to hold further discussions with the state government on Wednesday to prepare a roadmap, the officer said.
The Fisheries Department admits that it does not have the exact figures on how many fisherman are at sea at a particular time. Unlike foreign countries where fishermen venture into the sea only from harbours, the 36,000 odd fishing vessels in the state can take off from any of the 188 fish landing centres, making enumeration a tough task.
“Once the communication range is extended, we are also planning to introduce a mobile app through which the owner/captain of the fishing vessel can update the Fisheries Department about the exact number of crew members who have gone to sea on a given day. This will be of immense help in any rescue operation that we undertake in future,” the officer said.
Declare Ockhi as national calamity: K V Thomas
Kochi: The Centre should declare cyclone Ockhi as a national calamity, K V Thomas MP said here on Monday. All possible rescue measures should be used to bring all fishing boats back to the shores, he said after visiting the cyclone-affected coasts in Ernakulam. “I visited the Thoppumpady fishing harbour on Monday. I have learnt from the fishermen around 115 boats had ventured into the sea for fishing before the cyclone hits the area. Of the total boats, four have returned. The navigation system, nets and other equipment in these boats are all destroyed. The fishermen have incurred a considerable loss due to the cyclone,” Thomas said.
Death toll climbs to 26
T’Puram: The official death toll due to cyclone Ockhi climbed to 26. Besides fishermen, deaths in mishaps like electrocution and the uprooting of trees have contributed to the overall death toll, said an officer at the state disaster control room. While 74 houses have been permanently damaged, 1,122 houses face temporary damage. A total of 34 relief camps are functioning in the state with 5,231 people belonging to 1,445 families lodged there. Crops planted in 1,231.73 hectares have been destroyed, causing a financial loss of D17.97 crore.