AGERCOIL: Four days after monster cyclone Ockhi caused havoc in coastal Tamil Nadu and Kerala before it moved to Lakshadweep, there is still no clarity on the number of fishermen missing in mid sea. While family members and fishermen associations in Kanniyakumari claimed around 1,000 were missing, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman brought it down to double digits: “Factsheet on #CycloneOchki wrt Tamil Nadu-Claim of thousand fishermen stranded is false. #Correctfigures-97 are yet to be rescued, 71 from TN have been rescued till now,” she said in a tweet.
But Sitharaman’s position did not tally with the situation on the ground, where many angry family members staged a protest at Kollemcode junction and refused to let government officials enter the coastal villages. Gut-wrenching stories like that of two girls struggling in vain to learn about the fate of their widower dad John, who other fishermen claimed had drowned in mid sea, pointed to drought of authentic information on their status.
Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam visited the affected areas in Kanniyakumari and promised to expedite relief. Fishermen form part of the core constituency of the AIADMK. He claimed the casualties were low since fishermen were warned not to put out to sea three days before the cyclone menaced the district. Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami in Coimbatore said power would be restored in the district in a day.
In Kerala, Union minister Alphons Kannanthanam rejected CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s demand to declare the devastation a national calamity. “We’ve received a memorandum from the State government requesting to declare cyclone Ockhi a national calamity. But, there is no such scheme for the Centre to do the same,” he said. He, however, promised full support to the State government.
Warning upgraded on new system
The India Meteorological Department has warned of strong winds along the Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts from Monday due to a new low pressure system over south Andaman Sea. On Sunday, it advised the fishermen from venturing into sea from Tuesday. But later in the night, it warned fishermen from venturing into deep sea from Monday itself.